Cooking up an idea…

I’ve just finished cooking Guancetti di Manzo, a dish of beef braised in red wine. As I was preparing it, I tried to practice mindfulness, focusing my attention and bringing it back to the taiPhone Image 4DB145sk at hand each time I found my mind wandering far and wide. I was moderately successful at noticing the orange of the carrots, the crunch of the celery, and the smell of the garlic, but what I noticed most was my enjoyment of cooking and the satisfaction I felt when I pulled the stew out of the oven and tasted it. There is nothing quite like working hard at something that you enjoy and achieving a good result.


This brings me to my point (And it’s about time, you are probably thinking). I’m always trying to find ways to help my students experience this same thing in their learning and I often think that school is the least likely place to find it (Gasp! Did she just say that?). Imagine children finding their way to their “zone”, as I like to call that state of calm creativity, and spending most of their school day in it. I know that when I am in that mental state, I feel happy and productive. I can almost feel my neurons firing and new connections being formed in my brain. Not only that, imagine all that dopamine and serotonin being released! Now why can’t all learning feel this way?

I do know that when children engage in unstructured play, they often are in this “zone”. I remember one year when my Grade 5 students were buddies with the JK class, we spent time with them creating an imaginary country in the woods near the school. They quickly took off with the idea and soon my 9 and 10 year olds were galloping along the paths on imaginary horses, collecting special white stones, and inhabiting this make believe world as much as any of the 4 year olds. I started to take note every time I saw my students in this state. It was usually when their creativity had free reign: building a system of ropes and pulleys around the classroom, devising a plan to overthrow me as the classroom teacher, or creating and publishing a class magazine on their own, and not as a part of an assignment. IMG_5249

As my own childhood experience of school felt soul sucking and creativity killing, I have long been an advocate of changing the system. I know that too many students still experience what I did. For about 8 years I have had the privilege to teach a small class of kids who have varied learning needs and who struggle with things that others take for granted. Just the other day, my students and I had a conversation about struggle and how important it is for learning. Struggle is uncomfortable and scary sometimes, but when we push through it, we make incredible discoveries.

These children inspire me daily (as well as make we want to pull my hair out from time to time) with their perseverance and their trust that some day we adults will figure out how to help them learn best. They are all amazing, wonderful, creative, and intelligent human beings who have often spent most of their time at school failing. To me this is a tragedy, and it is what motivates me to find other ways to help them learn.

And so, to this end, I am planning to explore the maker movement this year in Cohort 21. And I will hopefully bring it to my students in some way and see what they do with it. I am sure that it will be something incredible, that I would never have predicted!

I am grateful to have this opportunity to explore new ideas in a safe space, surrounded by supportive colleagues and people who are experts in areas where I am a mere novice! The first Face 2 Face session was an excellent taste of what it to come.


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