Thursday, October 20, 2011

A good walk

Recently, I went for a walk with one of my 9th grade classes. It was an impromptu, unscripted jaunt, and in total took less than five minutes.

It was the last period of the day and it was gorgeous outside. My students were about to work on major essays. What I would be asking of them would require focus, concentration, and attention to detail.

As soon as the bell rang and they were seated, I made an announcement that we would be going outside for a walk.

Their faces beamed. Smiles and grins filled the room. "Really?" "Outside?"


And outside we went. I had charted the route a few minutes earlier during the end of my prep period, leaving one of the side doors to the school ajar with a rock. I told the students I knew they had a lot to do that period, I knew it had already been a long day, and that I thought a little fresh air might help them focus. They all agreed.

"We should do this every day." "How far are we going?" "Can we go all the way around the school?"

We went about one quarter of the way around the building before turning in a side door and returning to the classroom. Once inside, students pulled up their essays on the computers and netbooks and began making revisions. Once done, they copied their work from Google Docs to Blogger, where they posted their essays for classmates to comment on.

Most of them did a nice job focusing on their work and being productive. I was able to circulate through the room, offering feedback and answering questions during mini writing consultations. It was a positive ending to the day, set in motion by a gut judgement about what the students needed most at that time.

Forest path photo by my sister-in-law, mindwhisperings at Flickr


Meansomething said...

They'll remember that for YEARS. Maybe they will even be able to apply it for themselves when their brains need a reboot!

Thanks for the reminder that when we trust our instincts, good things can happen.

Mr. B-G said...

Thanks Meansomething. I agree that some of the best teaching decisions I've made have been as a result of listening to my gut about what the best approach would be at that given moment.

This instinct is one that's taken years to develop. While it's not always right, its accuracy has gotten better with each year I've been a teacher.

Last week when I was feeling overwhelmed about an essay I needed to write for a graduate class I'm taking, I took my own advice and went for a walk with my dog. When I came back, I was in a much better place, and ready to focus.

I'm deeply concerned that the current state and federal movements to standardize education and limit educational practices to those deemed "best" (often by administrators and bureaucrats who haven't been in the classroom in years - if ever) will hamper teachers' abilities to act autonomously and make their own decisions about what their students need.

Frankly, it's scary stuff. If the day comes when I'm not able to make decisions which I feel are in the best interest of my students because of external mandates from organizations and officials who have never been in my classroom and don't know my students, I'll need to think long and hard about my future as a classroom teacher.

Life is too short to just be another cog in the machine.

leonie said...

You sense the kids needs and let go of everything that 'needs to be done' at that moment! I need to be more open to these gut feelings!

Mr. B-G said...

Thanks Leonie. I think it's very important to be attuned to students' feelings in the classroom. To be oblivious is to teach in a vacuum.

Also, the simple act of changing or altering a routine periodically can reap great rewards. Some of my favorite and most effective teachers had a streak of unpredictability which made class interesting and kept students engaged.

How did we ever learn without scripted curriculums and down-to-the-minute agendas and edujardon-filled learning objectives and standards plastered all over our classroom walls?