Friday is Op.Ed. day in my room and I savor this chance to ask my students some of the questions I discuss with fellow teachers. Yesterday's was "Should students have a say in what they have to learn about." To see all of their answers, head over to our kidblog. After 15 minutes of writing I asked students to share and this is where the magic happened. Several students shared and then someone blurted out a question. Nervously, they glanced at me to see if I would stop or reprimand them. I kept quiet. Question was answered by another student, and a new one came. Again glances were shot my way; I remained quiet. Well, that really got them going.
For ten minutes I sat back and let my students discuss. The kids got out of their seats, used arm gestures to underscore points, and formed smaller clusters of talking groups. Their enthusiasm was contagious and a huge smile spread across my face. This is what we try to teach our students; how to discuss, how to form opinions, and how to respond properly in a conversation. I did not teach them this, I only gave them the opportunity to engage one another.
As a teacher, I have to equip my students with life skills and those include how to have a proper discussion. I stopped the class only because they went back into kid territory of getting upset with each other. This, though, was also a learning opportunity; how do you politely disagree? How do you carry on a large group discussion? My students quickly realized that one major rule was to not interrupt each other, something I have asked for all year. And yet now they got it. They figured out the why themselves and that will always be my favorite way for them to learn.
Sometimes it is not about what we teach but the opportunities we provide. The opportunities are what matter.