I’m having a good teaching day. It’s one where my plans pan out, my students manage tasks that show me how far they’ve come in the year so far. While I was observing one group this morning I was reminded of a recent blog post I wrote. Re-reading while watching them in action told me a couple of things:
- What I have seen and described before remains true.
- I can write well
- Given the time and opportunity I can make connections to other sources of learning that are meaningful and uncommon.
The post I’m thinking of is titled: Space and Respect. In it I talk about how space is used and not used in the gym and how this concept figures differently for me and my students:
I ask kids to make groups for stretching, or long jump rope, or some other activity and they huddle up near the white board or by the wall, nearly on top of each other while the middle of the gym remains empty. A circle of movers tends to shrink very quickly. Space evaporates between kids at alarming rates as they end up side by side and giggling.
Re-reading this during my class today, I thought, ‘Yup, that’s true.’ When I explain why this might be the case, I acknowledge their deep need to be social, to connect with their classmates in as many ways as possible.
Given a choice, most of my students choose to gather with other students even when each child has a ball, or a rope to jump in. They need to show off for each other – to see and be seen. They need to gab and catch up. They have social agendas that are complex, multifaceted and at times, uncompromising.
I see them. I mean, really see them. And recognize their priorities do not necessarily align with mine. Then I go on to quote a Design Anthropologist about whom I read and she describes her task as “design[ing] the conditions of possibility.” And claim that same ambition as my own in the gym. I notice how I make space for students’ need to be social with each other. There are questions I can pose:
How do I stand as a designer of learning in my gym? And to what degree is my stance expressive of respect for my students and our time together? These are questions I can hold onto and explore again and again, every time my students enter the gym as I ask them to “find a space.”
Sometimes I think it’s good and important to look back and what we’ve done and thought, how we’ve described and considered, how we’ve learned and grown. Re-reading this post today gave me an essential boost. I know what I’m doing. There’s a method in my madness. And there’s space.