Second semester in the elementary classroom is exciting for the children and as exciting for the guides. It is during this time when we increasingly see everything begin to come together.
Regardless of where each child falls within the three year curriculum, we see a tremendous change after the winter holiday break. Children are challenging themselves to learn new things and master that which they found daunting during the beginning of the year with very little prompting from us.
We are guides in the classroom whose task it is to provide the materials and method of use that allow children to make exciting discoveries and develop the confidence to pursue them. We cannot impart learning, only give them the tools that they might need. It is our goal to see children embrace the experience.
More often than not, when you look around the room, you see children collaborating with peers on projects and experiments. You see others deep in thought as they work through multistep mathematical operations. You see yet others analyzing reading material, writing and editing research or creating dioramas, posters and puppet demonstrations that will display what they have learned from a research. Still others are creating artwork or music to accompany the work of an artist that they have been learning about. You will see a pair of children conducting an experiment or taking care of their assigned practical life skill. The works that they choose are challenging. You can see that they are working to satisfy an inner need to learn.
More importantly, we see children working as a community. Experienced children are helping others. The spirit of cooperation is lighthearted. Laughter is present. Children are happy.
Don’t get me wrong. The classroom is not a utopia. We have bad days as a community and children have bad days individually. When a child becomes frustrated or is in a bad mood, others will step in to help. He can take a few moments to rest or read, knowing that he is responsible to fulfill the work he has committed to on his learning plan. It is the child’s freedom to work through the tough times that makes we as guides gratified and humble. He is ultimately accountable for his own success. At the same time the children know that they are part of a whole and want their friends to be successful. The sense of community is strong.
The curriculum is a challenging one inhibited only by the desire of the child. During the second semester we see that desire blossom and grow in most children. It is their nature, after all. No one worries about tests or grades. We can all pursue learning unencumbered by extraneously imposed numerical values. Testing one’s knowledge is a welcome challenge. Believe it or not, the children ask for timed tests in math and “hard sentences” to diagram. It is learning without boundaries.
Over the years, we see this time and time again. It is so exciting to witness. I just had to share it.