A message about learning ninjas…

As I continue to change, tweak, type, and retype my philosophy of education. I think it is again time to critically examine an “I believe” statement.

I believe that my role as a teacher is to meet my students on their level, and find a respectful way to promote learning and critical thinking.

You might remember a blog I wrote last year after a presentation from Saskatchewan storyteller Kevin Mackenzie. During his discussion he said some things that really stuck with me. He referred to children as “learning ninjas” who are constantly learning form the world around them, taking it all in, exploring, asking questions…. and then they come to school…. Suddenly, they are forced to sit still, be quite, slow down, stop taking in the world around them. What’s wrong with this picture? How did this happen? How is this still happening in so many classrooms? Well… I think we can place some of the blame on this idea of “classroom management.”   A quite, structured classroom with rows of children working hard at their desks is not something you would see in my classroom! I believe in the value of collaboration, noise, hands on experiences, and discovery. So what do I believe I can do to transition those learning ninjas into my classroom? “I believe that my role as a teacher is to meet my students on their level, and find a respectful way to promote learning and critical thinking.” Welcome their enthusiasm! Direct it towards learning together, challenge them to find the answers to their own questions, and provide cues for deeper critical thinking. Embrace the passion those ninjas hold!

So what am I forgetting? This sounds to good to be true… Well, some have told me that administration will be opposed to such “chaos” but with the new trend in inquiry learning I’m not sure that I buy that. I have heard the argument that parents aren’t interested in discovery learning, they want academic results. Once again, Im not buying it. I think that what parents want, is for their children to be happy at school. (At least, this has been my experience at the elementary level) So I must be missing something?….. What are your thoughts?


6 thoughts on “A message about learning ninjas…

  1. It is really nice to read something thoughtful from such a caring educator. You obviously have a passion for learning and teaching and this will invariably rub off on your students. They can sense when someone cares and respects them and will be more forgiving of mistakes when those happen (I would love to say if there, but we all know that is impossible).

    There are only two comments that I would make about your personal philosophy of teaching (which I applaud you for doing). The first is to be careful to consider the various personality types that you will encounter. I have had a few long discussion with my wife about this. I am more extroverted and outgoing and she is far more introverted than myself. I sometimes use her as a resource when planning something for my classroom. She understand how something I have planned might or might not work with someone who appreciates individual work over group work. I think it is very important to teach the tools necessary to work collaboratively, but in the same vein of thought, we need to teach the outgoing students how to sit and think on their own as well. These are skills which will serve them well in the future. It is funny that I just watched a TED talk on introverts and Susan Cain addressed these same issues. Here is a link to look over: http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html

    The second thought is in regards to assessment. I love to have fun in my classroom and the noise and sometimes chaotic feel of the room is energizing to me. The thing I always have to be conscious of though is to ask myself, “how do I know they are learning anything?” It is easy to get caught up in the moment, but it is my duty as an instructor to make sure they are learning and progressing. That could be in a more formative or summative type of assessment, but I need to be able to say to the student and the parent that they are learning here, but need work there.

    I hope this doesn’t come across as being critical. I think you have the right attitude and vision, it just might need a bit more focus in some areas. Of course, it is likely that you have thought of these things already. I hope that helps.

    P.S. I am an ESL instructor and I primarily teach adults, although I have taught teens as well. Regardless of the age or subject matter, these things are applicable.

  2. I like Nathan’s take on this. I agree that your classroom vision is inspiring and motivating – you truly are giving a lot of consideration to creating a learning environment that is fun and engaging. But Nathan is right about the introverts. They are likely to be overwhelmed by too much stimulation, and therefore, their learning could be hindered. But overall, I have to say….I want to be a student in your classroom. Your passion and commitment to being the best that you can be will inspire the next generation. I admire you so much Allie, and I know that you are going to be an amazing educator. I feel happy for the children who will be blessed to have you as a teacher.

  3. You have captured the spirit of inquiry learning. Throughout your career you will encounter many nay sayers. “Admin, won’t like it. It’s too noisy. That’s not what we do here.” or worse you might hear, “that sounds good, but that won’t work with ‘our kids.” Please put a copy of this blog post in your top drawer. Pull it out on those tough days and remember why you entered the teaching profession in the first place.

  4. Hi Allie – you had just responded to one of my posts and I thought I would check out your blog. I really like this post – this is so how I want to teach too! I am a mother of two and I understand that learning should be messy and noisy and fun. And above all, I want the classroom to involve moving around and getting outdoors – I want an environment that truly respects the natural way that children are – inquisitive, imaginative, enthusiastic explorers. I do wonder about how that will be possible with children that need a quieter environment to learn and how assessment will work and I guess those will be areas to consider as I get closer to becoming a teacher. I hope that we are both able to create the classrooms that we imagine because I think they will be amazing places for kids to engage and learn. And speaking from my role as a parent and knowing the things that you value in the classroom, I would be thrilled to have you as my children’s teacher!

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