Letting Them Learn

Last week was very chilly. So chilly that we spent most of the week indoors for recesses. As such, the children were stuck playing games in the classroom. Now, our classroom tends to be noisier than most. I attribute this to the need for children to experience and communicate – not just passively receive knowledge. I try to make room for noise in the classroom, while carefully trying to differentiate productive noise from noise that interferes. (I’ve yet to strike this balance consistently!) As expected, noise on our classroom grows quite high during less structured times like indoor recesses. I’ve been known to interrupt the children during such times to ask, “How are your ears feeling?” and “What can we do to help our ears?” The children easily come up with solutions, but the results are often short-lived; we are a lively and active bunch.

Towards the end of the week I sat back during our indoor lunchtime recess and watched and listened. Some children drew and coloured. Some played board games. And some were playing a lively game of 7-up. The energy of the game players could scarcely be contained; with the chance to go up and be “it” some children would spin and dance and make funny sounds. Though earlier in the school year I might have intervened to “calm them down,” this day I waited – and watched and listened. I heard the children managing their own group game of 7-up. I heard them resolve conflicts about who should be up or down when someone was tagged by a non-player, or when someone was tagged twice by mistake. I watched through their busy bodies and sounds to see their positive and productive interactions with each other. All of this was accomplished without adult intervention or management. I swelled with pride watching and listening to their conflict resolution and problem solving. Certainly, in the beginning of the year such hurdles would have crippled group games.

When the volume grew to an unproductive level – just before I was about to intervene and ask about their straining ears – one of the children came over to me and told me that it was very noisy. I agreed, and he asked if he could address the class about the noise. I encouraged him to do so. Getting the class’s attention, he asked why it was so noisy in the class. No one looked at me. This child was the speaker; the teacher of the moment. They looked at him and immediately hands went in the air to respond to the question. Together, and without my guidance or intervention, the class worked together to resolve their noise problem and move forward. I spoke up only to reinforce the resolution that they arrived at.

Witnessing the growth in independence, responsibility, and problem solving in the children of our grade one class has reminded me of the magic of this profession. And it has reminded me that school ought to be a place of experiencing and learning through experiences; not of learning through telling.

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