Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Let the Kids Loose and See What Happens

I really don't much like the last days of school.

For some ridiculous reason, our grades close Monday so Tuesday through Thursday is wasted time that teachers usually use to show movies, have parties where kids eat chips and drink sugar soda and get fired up.

I hate being a babysitter.

Today, though, was different. Our kids raised $10,000 - you read that right - for Acres of Hope, a Muskego farm where people - particularly veterans - with brain injuries go for therapy with animals.

The students chose the "rewards" for raising certain amounts of money. For $7,000, the male teachers dyed their hair pink - and it's real dye that required bleaching, then dye - and the female teachers got their noses pierced.

And for $10,000 - which we haven't even come close to in nine years of doing this - the kids wanted Mr. Marzion and I to do a "wedding ceremony." Yes, they wanted us to be married.

Never mind that John is already happily married with three children, and I, while single, most definitely prefer women.

That's what the kids wanted. And for $10,000, I'll be glad to accomodate them.

So today, in our babysitting time, my room was designated the "wedding planning" room.  And I was very nervous - not for what they might come up, but for the whole babysitting thing.

Boy, was I wrong. There were maybe 20 kids in my room, 13 girls, 7 boys (who were "looking out for the groom"). Those kids seriously got to work.

Carley took over and wrote everything on the board. Kids split themselves into committees and small groups with specific tasks. I vetoed make-up and lip gloss! And we gradually moved them to a "Friendship Ceremony" rather than a marriage, which was going to be weird anyway. We had a chance to talk about the perceptions if we "married" and they agreed the friendship thing was a far better option.

Kayla, the other Carley, and someone else wrote/adapted some very cool vows, Molly and others wrote invitations and announcements.

It was a pure example of what happens when kids start a task in which they're interested and vested. They had a task they cared about and spent two solid hours working on it.

That's what middle school education should be. That's what authentic learning could look like. Imagine if we researched the debate over same-sex marriages,  the history of marriage, the purpose of marriage in society, the role of ritual and ceremony in our culture and in other cultures.

Such a curriculum would be incredibly rich and force kids to think on their own, to consider different opinions. That may, however, be too much for some parents to think that their children aren't ready to think on their own.

There's few standards that we can't incorporate into tasks and projects like this. The task was silly. Imagine if these kids worked on real-life tasks with real-life results.

1 comment:

  1. I was in your class the year of the "Friendship Ceremony"(: To us, it was still a wedding. That dress looked beautiful on you.

    But I agree. Even though I'm going into high school now, I'm frequently disappointed by some of the things we're forced to absorb. Teachers might think that we aren't smart enough to tell when what we're doing is just busy work...believe me, we know. It'd really be nice if in class we were allowed to do something interesting that will further our education. We aren't idiots. We know that decorating timelines and making cartoons are Plan B for when there's nothing left in the curriculum to teach.