Sunday, January 29, 2017

Something New

I love the excitement that comes with something new. There’s nothing quite like the anticipation and thrill that the mind and body experiences during a new event or activity.

Take my youngest son for instance. His first wrestling tournament was just a couple of weeks ago. He was literally counting down the days for an entire week.

“Is it our wrestling tournament tomorrow?” he would ask multiple times a day.

“No buddy. It is on Sunday. Just a few more days away,” I would reply.

On the morning of the tournament, he woke up without a fuss. He got ready without multiple prompts. And, as we waited for the brackets to be posted, he was right along side his brothers and teammates, warming up, taking it all in. This little 35-pounder had enough adrenaline rushing through him to hand it off to others who needed it. And I love every second of it.

I think about his excitement in this tournament and the excitement we bring to school each and every day. This is how we want our students to walk into school every single day. Anticipation and thrill for what is to come. What learning will happen? And how will it take place?

I think of a recent activity that was done with our 3rd graders. A parent and professor at our local university brought in water and clay so that students could learn about how boats float. Hands-on excitement. The students were not sure what they were about to experience, but you could feel that buzz in the air. Purposeful exploration and making. When I walked into the cafeteria, students were in full swing. There are no words to describe the conversation about how to mold the clay so that it would float in water. The pictures could not capture the jubilation when their “boat” did float. Problem-solving. Thinking. Intentional creating. Trial and error. And failure was not devastating. It was an opportunity to try again without worry or criticism. Labels were eliminated and every child was on an even-playing field. Awesome learning.

So the question is, are these moments or excitement, trying something new, limited to random opportunities? Are these opportunities solely created every once in awhile?

I do agree that it takes quite a bit of time to develop these kinds of learning opportunities. But, I believe it is worth it. I believe it is worth it to take time and create these units, activities, lessons, where discovery happens more often than not. We need to give teachers time make this happen. We need discovery and inquiry to be the norm.

We need to be intentional about building experiences for students to learn within. Worksheets aren’t experiences. Test prep isn’t an experience. These are chores. Experiences stick with us. We remember them, relate to them, refer back to them. Learning is an experience, and for educators, it is our duty to ensure our students are experiencing their learning.

However, this will not just happen by talking about it. I can write about it until my fingers hurt, but that will not make it happen. The resources are out there. There are teachers and schools who do this. Let’s share even more. Let’s carve time even more and make this “something new”, this excitement an everyday part of school.

No fuss getting out of bed. Only, “I wonder what we will be doing with our learning today?”

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