Assemblies are pretty common in our school. We have everything from musical assemblies to book presentations to holiday celebrations. I have always been someone who spends time before assemblies talking to the students about how to behave. Be sure you clap, never boo. Pay attention and show the presenter that you are interested and listening. Be polite and respectful to all those around you. And, for the most part, the students are great audience members.
Today, our assembly was a science assembly. It was loud and exciting. The presenter was enthusiastic and engaging. And the students were totally enthralled by every minute. But I observed something interesting with them.
You see, in our classroom, Christine and I work to make sure that all of our students know how to be active learners. They are expected to do what they need to do in order to stay focused, be productive, and remain engaged. That means that they sometimes move around the room. Sometimes they grab a laptop in the middle of a lesson. Sometimes they get reference books or a Franklin Speller. There are fidget toys and highlighters, a Relaxation Station and a water fountain. Whatever they need to do to learn, they do. Without asking. Without disturbing everyone else. Without making a scene.
So back to the assembly. There we are, sitting in the gym with the rest of the fourth and fifth graders. We got into the room last so we were sitting in the back. And once the assembly began, the children began to take care of themselves. Some of them moved to the very back and knelt so they could see. Some students actually stood in the back of the room. Two students were video taping the whole assembly so they were moving around the edge of the room throughout the presentation. One student ran back to the room for his glasses. Two students started a very quiet conversation about energy while they were learning. I am sitting behind all of the students watching. And I am feeling proud. They are engaged. They are excited. They are learning. And they are doing what they need to do without disturbing the other students or the presenter. And then I saw the shocked faces of the other teachers in the room. And I realized that our students no longer fit into the "school mold."
We have gotten our students to be active learners. We have taught them the importance of advocating for their education. But now we are going to send them off to middle school where there might be teachers who find their behavior insubordinate. And I'm not sure how I feel about that. Do we stop teaching them to learn, regardless of what it takes? Do we spend the rest of the year teaching them to fit back into the "school mold"? Or do we just hope that they can teach their teachers next year that, just because they are standing in the back of the room or playing with a fidget toy, does not mean they are not learning? What do you think?
Images: 'Guess the shape'