“That was really interesting,” was the best thing I heard today, since it came from a couple students who have a harder time engaging in the classroom.
Despite 15 inches of snow, 40km gusts and -20 weather in Winnipeg, we had a great Social Studies field trip to the Legislature, Law Courts, and Library.
I love walking through the Legislature and meeting our MLA, but this was my first time visiting the law courts. It took a little courage to trust my grade 9s, since we were dropping in on criminal cases and bail hearings here and there without a guide. I thought for sure my students would be bored through some of the proceedings, but the ones I had pegged as ready to leave asked me to stay longer.
We spent the afternoon doing selfie scavenger hunts in MTS centre (hall of Free Press newspapers) and the Millenium Library. I couldn’t stop smiling since they were having a good time in a library of all places. And there wasn’t a whole lot educational to it, it was just more of a conditioning exercise so some student someday might access a flashbulb memory of library and think, “fun!”
Last week I really hesitated making this a full day trip. Would it be worth it? There would be more risk for something to go wrong and people to be bored. I was told by colleagues that it wouldn’t be a good idea to go into courts late. The judge might yell at you, etc. Also, how interesting could looking at newspapers be anyway? I really went back and forth, editing and then control Z-ing the permission slips. This morning I second guessed the whole thing while stuck in crazy traffic.
Really what it came down to was taking a risk. I knew I had to take a risk if my idea was to become reality. I trusted my students, but needed to show it.
I can imagine people reading this and thinking “wow, is he green..” But so far I’ve been surprised at how seldom teachers take risks they know could be good. Why is that? If students were your own children, you wouldn’t want them sitting in a classroom all day every day in order to keep them safe. You would want to expose them to the real world. You would want them getting used to good things about the city they live in. And you would want to them to confront their prejudices.
Last week I was talking to the inquiry-adept and very approachable Matt Henderson on project based learning. Along with his generosity, he reminded me that sometimes with projects, you just have to be ready to recognize failure no matter how much you have tried. Yes, possible failure can be the basis of fear, or it can be seen as an opportunity to grow.
And there you have it – I’ve entered the world of cliche-ridden teacher wisdom. One shouldn’t be too scared to go there.