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!