I was raised to believe that everything happens for a reason, that I am not given anything in life that I can’t handle, and that everything I face in life can teach me an important lesson (if I let it). As a result, I believe that we are capable of learning from many of our life experiences, even the small ones. I look for connections in my practice in order to reflect on my experiences and to develop deeper understandings.
Recently, I have struggled to decide on a topic to write on for Playing With Sticks. I write when I am inspired by my students. I write when I am passionate about a new concept or idea. I write when I am curious. I write when I really think our society needs to get on board! Sure, I’ve had a couple of ideas to write about … but I didn’t feel inspired to write because I didn’t feel like I was being true to myself as a teacher. I didn’t feel like I was following through on my beliefs about education. But I’ve finally waded through it all by making meaning of the school year so far.
I moved schools this year and as a result I faced a lot of change. On top of it, due to student population and the governments decreased funding to the education system I switched classes on October 5th. Essentially, my first day of school was October 5th. On October 5th my eyes were as wide as saucers and I was handed a class of wide-eyed, somewhat confused students to, I suppose, impart wisdom to. I remember sitting in the class during centres watching them play … completely in a daze.
I’m proud to say that our class has made leaps and bounds since that first day together on October 5th. For many reasons I felt the need to ease parent concerns and prove that they can trust me with their child’s education. As a result, I left my strong beliefs about outdoor education and play by the wayside. I have extremely high standards when it comes to my student’s reading, writing, and math. But often parents don’t focus on the great academic work that we do and focus on the fact that I “let the children play” or “let them run around in the forest.” As a result, we worked steadily on extremely quickly developing appropriate learning behaviours and expectations of work. I think that we almost crunched two months of learning into 5 weeks. I finally feel like I can slow down and reflect (THE most important thing to do to better ones teaching practice).
Today the pressure that I have perceived and put upon myself really hit home. Luckily, I’ve made sense of it all.
Today in my Young Readers Workshop we discussed chapter one from Spirals of Inquiry, a book written by BC educators on incorporating a process of inquiry into ones practice. The chapter speaks to the First Peoples Principles of Learning:
A lot of these principles or values speak to me and my beliefs around outdoor education and play.
Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits and the ancestors.
Learning is holistic, reflexive, experiential and relational – focusing on connectedness, or reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place.
Learning is embedded in memory, history and story.
Learning involves patience and time.
Learning requires exploration of one’s identity.
… it is these things and more that outdoor play and education provides for my students. It is these things that allow learning in the academic environment to be successful, meaningful and purposeful.
I have been pondering my options in teaching important learning behaviours such as creativity, perseverance, patience, self-reflection … and I seem to be always brought right back to where I started. Seeing that these principles are valued and highlighted in a book based on research evidence and published not 9 months ago by top-notch educators in British Columbia … well, you can only imagine how validated in my beliefs I am! How loud can I say “BAZINGA!” ??