Monday, August 5, 2013

S'more? I'm a bit of a rebel.

Which s’more in the picture above demonstrates the correct way to make the campfire treat?
  • a)    Crisp graham cracker with dark toasted marshmallow, a pile of creamy peanut butter, doused in milk chocolate chips
  • b)   Fudge stripe shortbread cookie with lightly toasted, gooey marshmallow
  • c)    Crisp graham cracker filled with slightly browned marshmallow and a tad melted Reese’s peanut butter cup
  • d)   None of the above. ….they all destroy the traditional integrity of the s’more recipe first published in the 1927 handbook, Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts.

Sounds silly, right?  But, think for a minute about your classroom and the way you approach teaching.  Is the focus on finding “the right” answers?  Should we follow the one series, worksheet, or basal everyone else does?  If an outcome is expected, is creativity to get there encouraged?

As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention”….well, when you’re in the middle of the Adirondack mountains, with the nearest town thirty minutes away, it’s easy to become inventive.   With family all visiting, we had the perfect fire going – glowing embers, low roar.  But as I grabbed the supplies for s’mores I quickly realized there were N-O   M-O-R-E  Hershey bars!!!  Crisis in the middle of nowhere!!!  Not one to cave or give up (and CERTAINLY not when a s’more is involved!) we began to brainstorm what we could do (giving up would mean impending mutiny!!) and that’s when our newest love was born….a gob of peanut butter drenched with milk chocolate chips nestled below a perfectly toasted marshmallow!   Had I been an “only one way” girl, we would have missed out.  Should we have gone with the test prep, widget mentality and simply given up because we couldn’t make the “correct s’more”?  Or were we right by collaborating and working together find not only one, but many ways to create new, exciting s’mores?  Since then it’s become a game of creativity to come up with as many possibilities as we can.  We sample new creations with neighbors and they share new ideas in return – crunched up Butterfingers, peppermint patties.  I’ve even had suggestions from students –ever heard of a “s’maco”?  The marriage of a soft shell taco, a bit of banana & peanuts and the mixings for s’mores lightly toasted and melty over a fire!  My niece’s newest fan favorite is the all-white s’more – with a big ol’ hunk of white chocolate! 

Teaching has now become public enemy #1 and we are under continual fire in the political battle with education (so easy to fire attacks when you’re not in the trenches!).  The Education Department in New York, as with many other states, has put significant pressure on teachers by linking state assessment scores to teacher evaluation.  I see really great teachers who are afraid of straying off the straight and narrow for fear of missing a sub-line of the curriculum while others aren’t willing to teach using proven, well known, reputable brain based research and have instead turned to test prep and traditional methods of information feeding learning.  Our state has “blessed” us with a website that basically gives a step by step, scripted implementation (including MINUTES for each part of the lesson!!!!) for curriculum in our classrooms.   It’s a beautifully, flawless model to producing amazingly, fantastic widgets.  What scares me is that there are many, many teachers who will use this as their bible, moving diligently line by line – for fear of not gaining points toward evaluation.  Hmmmm……which one of your kids do you think will come back to you in a few years with the best memory from your class being the time he/she worked on test prep? 

I’ve never been a page turner or a basal girl – I LOVE teamwork and working on the window seat, the floor, in the bathtub, gathered so tightly at a table you can’t fit a piece of paper between the kids and even for me, the move toward more inquiry learning needed fanning of the embers.    It was challenging and had growing pains – but I dug my heels in, I turned my back on the panic, and refused to do any test prep…..I was often heard saying I was doing “life prep” NOT test prep.  Okay, full disclosure… I showed them how to circle each answer in the lengthy test booklet and then fill in a bubble using my SmartBoard…..yep, T-H-A-T   W-A-S   I-T.  I wanted these kids to learn how to question and wonder – how to look at a “solution” and find another way around to an answer.  Last year, as I watched my kids blossom and bloom into thinkers, readers, questioners, and lovers of learning I knew in my heart what I was doing WAS right – many times they would BOO! me when we had to go to lunch or a special!  I’m also not a huge worksheet girl……we use “learning logs” to keep a record of our learning – I can prove every ounce of curriculum we do in one neat book.  My room looks and feels different, but every child knows there is a T O N of accountability in our team and appreciate the responsibility they have. When we debriefed after the assessments, one of my kids said, “Well THAT was a waste of time.  We have too much learning to do to spend time on some test!”  Out of the mouths of babes……God, I love my job!

Truthfully, I won’t weaken a child’s belief in themselves or intrinsic love of and zest for learning for a score on a snapshot test – may be foolish on my part, but that’s a chance I’ll take.   I’ll spend my time with inquiry learning and digging deep into discovering, in hands on mathematical real-world activities, and seeing kids snuggling up with a good, stimulating book that they can talk about and challenge each other with.   What if we changed the way we approach teaching so the kids took the seed we planted and ran with it? I don’t mean ditch everything – use the curriculum & even a basal if you have to, but use it as a guide, NOT something to confine or define how you go about teaching or the kids go about learning.  What if we take more of a “lead learner” approach and your goal was to guide the kids toward that intrinsic love of learning?  If you planted the seed, based on your curriculum, and fanned the flame to spark the kids’ interest what would happen?  If you give them everything to run with and boundaries are clearly set, what’s the worst that can happen? What if we give up control of what “right” is to let our kids discover new ways to do the same old things?  What if……the kids came up with a whole new way to make a s’more that didn’t look like what was expected, but they were engaged, and excited, and interested……what if?????

((And if you’re wondering……I took one for the team……yes, I ate all three s’mores after the photo was taken!!!))

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1 comment:

  1. Can't fill in a bubble sheet to make s'mores cause there is s'more to it :-)