First Day Victories
As I have explained in previous blogs, this year my co-teacher and I are experimenting with a self-contained, co-teaching classroom. Since we are trying something so different, I plan to spend time blogging on a regular basis about what is happening in our classroom and how our efforts are paying off. So, here goes:
Day one down, only 180-some to go!!!!! Yes, today was our first day of school, and I am so glad it is over, although all in all, it went quite well. Our focus today was to set forth the important premise that there is no “unfair” in our classroom. To get this point across, we used two exercises to underscore the fact that we all come into the classroom with different abilities, and our job is to provide the tools to ensure that everyone will have the same opportunity to succeed. In this blog, I will describe one of those activities.
In our first exercise, we hung two large candy bars from the ceiling at a height we knew our tallest student could reach. We then asked him to come and take the candy bar of his choice. He did so easily, and then we picked a significantly smaller student and invited her to do the same thing. Of course, she could not reach the last candy bar, and she began to complain that it wasn’t fair because it was too high for her to reach. I asked what we could do to make it fair. She first said that I could reach it for her, and I said that I was willing to help her, but I wasn’t willing to do it for her. She thought for a minute and asked if she could use a stepstool I had in the room. I said sure, and helped her to use it to retrieve the candy bar.
We all celebrated her victory, and then I asked the class what was unfair about the candy bar exercise. Interestingly, no one said that it wasn’t fair that they didn’t get a candy bar, but everyone agreed that it wasn’t fair that we had placed the candy bars where only the tallest student in the class could reach them. I asked if they thought it was fair that I let the shorter student use a stepstool. They all agreed that using the stepstool made it fair for the student who could not physically reach the candy bar. At this point, we asked how learning was similar to this activity. After much discussion, we arrived at the conclusion that everyone comes into the classroom with different abilities and everyone also has areas which are a challenge for them. We asked them if they thought it would be fair for us to ask a student to do something they couldn’t do, or if it would be fairer to give them a leg-up and give them the tools (just like a stepstool) to achieve their goals. Everyone agreed that giving struggling students the necessary tools would be the fair thing to do. I asked them why they thought I wouldn’t just give the shorter student the candy bar when she asked. We all agreed it doesn’t help them if we simply give them the answers.
So, what did we conclude? They agreed they will not say, “That’s not fair!” when we provide students with the help they need, or their peers have a reduced assignment to complete, or a different activity to reinforce the same skill is used, etc. We agreed that our goal to make sure everyone in the classroom is successful is the fair thing to do. How awesome to have students reach this conclusion on their own!
So, as I write this, even though I am exhausted, I am optimistic about this group and its potential, and I think it is going to be an awesome year! I’ll keep you posted.