The role of any school or teacher is far from the conventional understanding of what we are all lead to believe.
Watch any Hollywood movie involving a school and there you’ll see a teacher standing at the front, the children listening carefully to a teacher dictate facts from either their brain or a text book and anyone who dare talk, challenge the teacher or move around is sent to the principal or put on detention.
This picture paints an image of control, not education. Education is about letting go, loosening the reigns and having time to observe your children in action as they learn. The conventional image of a classroom is far from what learning should look like!
You see, the role of education is to prepare the child for the world outside. A world that awaits them is completely unknown and unpredictable. The role of the classroom is to enable the child to develop not only facts about the world, but also how to thrive and survive, whist actually living in society.
The role of the teacher has changed and the classroom has too. Teachers must start to focus on skills first and facts second. The facts will come as the children learn how to care, listen, communicate and fail! If we only focus on the facts then the essential skills that our children need for life will be surely missed.
So what exactly does the perfect classroom look like? Here’s ten pointers that might help you get started:
1. Children are allowed to move freely as they wish, they have a list of objectives to complete during the day and the teacher is there to help, but if no help is required, then the teacher takes a step back and observes. The teacher inspires learning rather than directs it! They are the bridge between the child and the learning.
2. Debate between children is allowed! When children have a disagreement, we must let the situation resolve itself. A whole lot of learning will come from that resolution. Just observe and take notes. It will be a time we may see great communication occur, resilience develop and empathy grow. Mistakes and misunderstanding happen everywhere, so why not in the classroom?
3. It is a micro version of the world outside. There’s choice within limits, time constraints and flexibility. The teacher is more like a guide than a lecturer, one who is happy to be wrong, challenged or even taught be the students. Statements like “Here’s what I know about dinosaurs, now what would you like to know?” Are often heard!
4. The students voices, choices and recommendations are heard. They have a say in their learning and actions they think will improve their ability to learn, are installed and implemented. It’s a democracy and everyone has a voice!
5. Children can sit where they want, work with whom they wish and represent their research or follow-up work in a way that suits them. Their individuality, and freedom of choice are celebrated. Children are encouraged to find their niche in life. If they want to be a fashion designer when they are older, then this will be brought into the learning as much as possible.
6. The classroom promotes real life lessons. Children are encouraged to make their learning matter, make it real. The outcomes listed by the teacher clearly indicate that when the children complete a task, they are going to use it in some way to impact the world! If they’ve made a poster, why did they do it? What impact will it have? And where are we going to put it to make sure people see it?
7. The teacher follows the same rules as the children. She/he models the behaviour we wish to view in our children. Honesty, empathy, love, care, understanding, collaboration, active listening and determination are all there for the children to see.
8. Mistakes are celebrated, analysed, documented and encouraged. From great mistakes comes great learning and it is only when we allow trial and error in our classrooms that we can build the resilience and confidence around true learning.
9. Children are not compared against each other. They are only compared against the child they were yesterday. Their accomplishments are celebrated with humility and punishments do not exist. The only punishment the child will receive is the natural consequence of their actions. “If you’re being rude to people, you will be lonelier, so why don’t we think about how we should act around other children?”
10. They are constantly changing, being reinvented and redesigned. Both the layout of the classroom and the pedagogy are on a conveyor belt of change, with all stakeholders’ needs taken into account. “The only constant in education is change, and you’re it.”
Today’s classroom is one, that if designed with the ‘Real World’ in mind, might just produce the children that can correct the mistakes we failed to address!