Golf gives you an insight into human nature — your own as well as your opponent’s.
Not long ago, I attended a professional development opportunity for teachers and school leaders where we spent time reflecting on the environment in effective classrooms. The facilitators opened by asking us to reflect upon our own classrooms in previous years. “Make a metaphor for what it looked like,” they told us. “Be open and honest; your metaphor should reflect what it looked and felt like on a daily basis.” They broke us into small groups of eight people so we could talk about our metaphors.
When it came time to share our metaphors, I spoke first. I told the group my classroom had been a golf course. There were a few titters as I explained my thinking:
My classroom had been a traditional one, following the general model of classrooms from years gone by. The rules were well established. It was fun; everyone was generally pretty happy to be there. Some players were successful; others couldn’t seem to get the ball where it needed to be. And me? In my analogy, I was the golf pro. I was running the place. I ordered the T-shirts; I managed the snack bar; I set the tee times. I was the one who closed things down when it was hot or stormy. I helped when the swing was off, suggesting little tweaks that could be made to improve performance. If someone was really struggling, on the course but playing some other game entirely, I was largely at a loss and wasn’t sure how to guide them back.
As others shared their metaphors, we found ourselves delighting in the analogies:
Although most metaphors were largely positive, there were a couple of honest and open teachers who were more negative. An art teacher confessed, “My class was a sweatshop with child laborers.” A kindergarten teacher admitted, “I was the ringleader in a three-ring circus.” A special education teacher, who had spent her year juggling an extremely tricky caseload, said “I think I was teaching in a mousetrap. And it was ready to snap at any moment.”
After we explained our metaphor to our group members, our facilitators asked us to think of a metaphor for how we’d like our classrooms to be in an ideal, perfect teaching world. This was a lot more difficult to do. We talked at length about it before all agreeing on the same thing: our metaphor for our ideal classroom wouldn’t be a metaphor at all. It would be a classroom. A well-run, well-organized classroom, complete with interest-based learning, workshop routines, and extensive differentiation.
It was a fun exercise, one that I’ve continued to reflect upon. It might help all of us to consider a metaphor for what our classroom looks like . . . and what we want it to look like. And, most of all, what needs to be done to shift the metaphor to what we’d like it to be.
This week we look at courage in classrooms. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jennifer Schwanke taught middle school language arts for six years before moving into administration at both the middle school and elementary level. She enjoys thinking of more effective ways to present literacy to students at these vulnerable ages. You can follow her latest thinking on literacy and leadership on her blog.
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Ruth Ayres tells the story of Noah, a brave first grader with a hard home life who has few happily-ever-afters as a writer:
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan share a professional development activity using the book Courage that helps teachers look at change in new ways:
Here is a booklist of 30 Inspiring Picture Books About Fear and Courage from the What Do We Do All Day? blog:
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We are wired for story, and sometimes children living hard lives need to learn how to rewrite their story. Ruth Ayres shares the teacher’s role in the process in Everybody Wants to Be a Hero (and Needs a Guide):
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills use the Sara Bareilles song Brave to help their fourth-grade students move from bed-to-bed to more emotive writing early in the year:
Carly Ullmer ponders what it means to take risks in her middle school classroom as she and her students experiment with different response options:
New PD2Go: We look at ways teachers can help young introverted readers and writers share their work. In the video, Katie DiCesare has three students describe strategies they used during reading workshop:
This video and workshop guide fulfill Common Core State Standard ELA-Literacy.SL.1.1: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
In an encore video, Heather Rader works with a second grader to help him take the risk of lengthening sentences in his writing drafts, and coaches his teacher Linda Karamatic through the process:
That’s all for this week!