We NEED more self-directed learning in our schools – especially for boys!
When I was working as a Casual Relief Teacher today, teaching art I had a run in with a particular student, let’s just call him “J”
J’s grade 5 class were waiting outside the art room and were being a bit ratty.
I had just spend half of my 20 minute recess supervising classes that were trapped inside by the heavy rain. The kids desperately needed a chance to run around and the weather was grating on all our tempers, mine included.
I brought the class in, sat them down and explained what I expected a far as behaviour, in a nutshell, respectful listening, not talking when I was talking.
J was a persistent offender and my temper was already frayed. I felt the need to make an example of him and gave him a warning.
The class were at the tail end of a project inspired by Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly pictures and of course J was one of the students who had already finished. The alternate task of making a poster for the upcoming school fair clearly held no appeal for him. By the time the others had been working for 10 minutes he was roaming around the room causing trouble.
I felt like exploding and sending him out of the room but then I remembered that part of my ZONE OF GENIUS is outsmarting people who have worked themselves into dead-ends with their learning.
I called J over. He was pretty wary of me by that time.
I asked him what he WANTED to do with the session.
“Nothing” was his first reply.
I decided to level with him.
“Look J you’re really annoying me. But the thing is, I’m getting paid to be here. You could annoy me and I’ll go home at 3:30 and just forget about it. Or you could do something really cool with this time and I’ll go home and remember it. What would you LIKE to do with the rest of the time? You can use the resources we have here as long as you don’t use things other people need.”
J’s sullen face suddenly lit up.
“I’d like to make a giant Ned Kelly figure out of paper,” he volunteered.
So for the next half hour he worked away at this creation. When it was all laid out on the floor I suggested that he get some split pins to articulate the joints. He went and sourced this material from another teacher in the school, after working out how many he would need.
As the bell went he was putting the final touches on his creation which I stuck up on the board.
He had a choice. I had a choice. I’m pretty happy with the way things worked out.