Friday, April 29, 2016

Did we win?

Today as the elementary school ended its  field day with the ever famous grade level four way tug-of-war, like always I played my obligatory role of chief encourager of a team. This year it was team green... As each grade stepped up to the four-way rope and pulled their hardest I yelled "let's go green machines!" "You can do it!" "Dig in" etc. and inevitably my team didn't win and I sent team green back to their seats with high fives, "great jobs" and "it was so close!"...And then the fifth grade came. They pulled with all their might and they are actually experts at this because they have been doing it for years now. They came with gloves on, a plan of attack, and a thirst for victory. At one point it was so close to a victory for my beloved green team but alas when the whistle blew there was a pile of green on top of each other and two kids looked up at me and said "did we win?" I said, "No, I'm not sure who won but it wasn't us." To which one girl replied "WOW, IT REALLY FELT LIKE WE WON. I REALLY THOUGHT WE HAD."

I've been thinking on that all day. She was trying so hard, was so caught up in the moment it felt like she had won. And truthfully I was so caught up in the moment of encouraging those green machine kids I wasn't sure who had won.  Isn't this what learning should look like all the time? Students so caught up in the process that they may not even realize the end result when it happens? And teachers so caught up in their students that the end results are really superfluous to the path itself? 

I find myself being more and more challenged to create learning environments like that. As I study the value of formative assessments over summative assessments, competency based learning, personalization, and student voice and choice I imagine students so caught up in the learning all else fades away. I imagine driven behaviors because students are excited about what's before them. Is this a bunny dream world? Maybe a little, but I believe schools are not around for grown ups to have jobs but for kids to learn and succeed. If that's our first priority, what might happen?