I Wonder…

I love being on Twitter. There’s always a conversation that makes me think. And many times those conversations draw me back to things I’ve already mulled over time and time again. Today was one of those conversations. @donalynbooks @hmjensen31 and @PaulWHankins were discussing the great website Wonderopolis. Have you seen it? If not, you need to check it out! The conversation turned to the idea of how we create “wonder” in our classrooms. @ColoReader joined us, too and many great ideas started flying! These are such smart people I “hang out” with in the Twitterverse!

Whenever I am involved with conversations that focus on how to get students to think, to explore, to wonder, I always come back to the underlying need in a classroom—community and a safe place. When we ask kids to think, really think, to question, we are asking them to take risks. It’s like the Peanuts cartoon. Remember how Charlie Brown wants to kick the football? And Lucy always pulls it away at the last minute? Many of our kids feel like classrooms are that way. Why raise their hand if they will be wrong? Why question something if they will be told that isn’t part of the assignment? Too often the thinking and wondering have been narrowly defined by rigid assignments which make it clear there are only a few “right” answers. When kids miss the mark, it’s like Lucy pulling the football away. Bless that, Charlie Brown, he goes back time and time again in the hopes that one day he’ll get to kick the ball. Many of our students don’t have that same persistence. They have been conditioned to not take the risk.

So, does that mean all is lost? NEVER! It is never, ever too late to create classrooms where wonder abounds. But we can’t just expect kids to jump on board with us. They are a smarter, savvier Charlie Brown…they’ve seen Lucy pull the football away. They aren’t fools. So how do we assure them that our classroom is different? That you take risks and you may be wrong, but you pick yourself up and redirect your thoughts and move forward? How do we convince them that learning is hard work, but worth the effort? We create safe classrooms.

When I observe classrooms where kids are actively engaged, where they are questioning and wondering, I see classrooms where teachers have worked to create a community. Community does not just happen. It has to be modeled and invited and encouraged and nurtured. It is not an activity on the first day “Okay ladies and gentlemen, today we’ll create our safe classroom….Alright see you all tomorrow when we’ll all feel safe and welcomed here!” It is an ongoing attitude and commitment. It can be achieved in many different ways. There is no one right recipe or formula. But it is well worth the effort. Because when we create community, when kids feel safe and valued in our classrooms, when kids realize true learning comes through taking risks, we get to be the observers who witness their growth, who see them find depths within themselves they didn’t realize they had. And that’s a pay raise no one can take away from us.

P.S.- I’m not done with this topic! I have lots of ideas and resources for creating classroom communities. And I’d love to hear from you in the coming weeks. I did write a guest blog for the School Improvement Network that starts to address some ideas. You can find it here: Best Practices

I am looking forward to thinking and wondering with y’all!

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3 thoughts on “I Wonder…

  1. Sorry I missed that conversation! I do love the question of how we create wonder in our classes – and the idea of needing to create a safe classroom environment for it to exist in. For all the talk about needing to prepare students for work and college with CCSS, it seems to me that wonder is one of the very traits that employers will be looking for. How do you get beyond just what is already known without it? There’d be no innovation in any field without it. Kids need to know that they will not always get it right the first time when they are venturing out into new territory – but if the stakes are high – socially, personally, academically (in terms of grades) – then only a few students who feel they have nothing to lose will bother to take the risk. All of those areas need to be considered in this classroom environment if we want students to be willing to be risk-takers with their thinking, to feel comfortable enough to wonder, to investigate, and to potentially be wrong.
    I look forward to more discussion on this!!!

    • That’s the trouble with Twitter, Cindy, there are too many great conversations happening all the time! I look at the CCSS and I see great potential, but I talk to kids I work with and I know they don’t feel invited to the conversation and I get scared that we are only going to push more kids away. I love talking to you so I am excited to have you be part of the conversation! Wonder and thinking are truly what employers are looking for, not standardized test takers. We need to shift the paradigm in educational thinking and the time to do it is now!

  2. I too, am sad to have missed this conversation, but would love to be involved next time. This is something that MUST be a focus, especially with my clientele. Students arrive in my classroom broken, marginalized & all too often with the attitude “just tell me what you want me to do.” Tragic. I’ve had some good results this summer with creating wonder, and look forward to incorporating the same strategies/activities this Fall. Keep fighting the fight, ladies! I am right there with you!

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