Have you ever been hit suddenly with the absurdity of your situation? This happened today, as I was carrying a wigwam prop down the hall (in wedges), stuffing it in between the useless doorways in the school hallway. I broke out in a sweat by the third doorway. Everyone is gone, and I am carrying a wigwam. It just seemed a bit surreal. I did panic when I saw the custodian-so I begged him not to lock me in the school, again.
Now there is a wigwam in my classroom.
One of the parents of my students stayed after school, for hours, building the wigwam. She was so happy to do it, and I was so thankful for the help. My cynical funk began to dissipate-a tad.
Before the wigwam transport, I had just cleaned up after our Independent Study Open House. You see, I felt the need to instill in the kids that learning should be motivated by intrinsic rewards-you know just because you want to know more about stuff. I explained that there would be NO GRADES given, just feedback, from me on a regular basis. They would have to pick a topic of interest, do a full on research paper (including citations), and a visual display. Eleven kids signed up to do the I.S. project! This was above and beyond their regular assignments and assessments. That alone restored my faith in the world.
So, for the last four months, these eleven students studied the following topics: Extreme Architecture, Black Holes, The Eagle Nebula, Falling Water, Greek Sports and Entertainment, Greek Mythology, Dinosaur Extinction, Broadway, Famous Landmarks in Dubai (no joke), Michael Jordan, Lighthouses , and The Bermuda Triangle. Each child came to class with questionnaires regarding their project, a visual display, and a research paper. They dressed up, presented these amazing projects, and made me know the world is in good hands. I asked the kids what inspired them for their subjects. They answered with responses such as:
“I want to be an oceanographer.”
“I want to be an architect.”
“The Greeks inspired so many new ideas that we use today.”
“I read The Lightening Thief, and decided that mythology was cool.”
“Lighthouses have saved sailors for years and years.”
“One day, I will be on Broadway.”
The great-grandmother of one of my students was there. This was the first time I had met her. The school air-conditioning was turned off, and I was beginning to melt. She came up to me and said:
“Do you know why I like you?”
I couldn’t be snarky and say, “People usually don’t like me when they first meet me.”
But instead, I just looked into her eyes.
“I like you because every time one of the kids got stuck, you jumped in and got them back on track.”
I replied, “Really? I did that? Well, it is very difficult to present to a large crowd, they are just kids.”
She had her hand on my arm, and I didn’t even mind that she was in my “bubble”.
Right now, I’m suppose to be completing the play my home room is writing. The basic idea is that literary characters fall into portals that bring them to Wonderland. I have enjoyed this project immensely. We are discussing the plausibility of events and situations given the understood demeanor of the characters. My mind is racing, and the day is re-playing, over and over. I am refraining from making all of the characters end up in the Bermuda Triangle.
It was a good day. I guess my pie-in-the-sky idealism has settled to an appreciation of a wigwam builder, kind words from a stranger, and creative kids who question EVERYTHING.