It has been another filled-to-the-brim two days at The Grange School in Santiago, Chile.
How I love it! Always wonderful to work with children, anytime, anywhere, with the added perk of teachers observing to consider new or forgotten ways of teaching. The number one comment that surfaces time and time again is how relaxed I am with the kids, how much I enjoy them and enjoy playing with them, how much space I give them to figure things out without jumping in so quickly. And as a result, how thoroughly engaged they are, how well-behaved without any threats of sticks nor promised rewards of carrots. And how much they can accomplish in a short time as we move step-by-step from one thing to another that grows to a final performance in a mere 45 minutes.
As always, my optimism about the world was not only affirmed by the reaction of the children, but by the insightful comments of the observing teachers. We had a stirring discussion about assessment and not a single teacher was advocating that we judge, sort, label and pit children against each other in the old tired competitive game of winners and losers. There were strategies about how to do minimal harm with the mandate of grading and head-shaking as to how weird it is to brainstorm how to do less harm to children in schools instead of gather our intelligences to consider how to do more good and give more help and aim for more healing.
After one of my model classes as to precisely how to do that— my Boom Chick a Boom shtick, one girl took my breath away with her comment. In this class, 10 kids are seated at instruments in a circle and 10 more placed in-between each instrument studying what to play. At a cue in the music, everyone moves over one slot and the song resumes, the observers now players and the players observers of the next part of the music. Not only does everyone get to be inside the music from a different vantage point, but the music itself is swingin’ and the kids are so thrilled to be playing in a jazz style. At the end of this 6th grade class, I asked who received help and who gave help. For often when we switch, a child might note that the new person playing the part they just played is having trouble. And because we humans are made to help each other, the kids do just that. Unless we create a situation where that inherent motivation is short-circuited— like announcing that we will grade everyone and put them in competition with each other. As we so sadly do.
I asked one girl why she helped another girl and without missing a beat, she replied:
“So that she could enjoy to the maximum the feeling of achievement when you play something that sounds good.”
Nothing further need be said.