Just recently, I’ve had to stop and pause in our mad rush to get everything done: the rush to bring the students up to speed in their conceptual math understanding; to read with passion, to engage in our calming, writers’ workshop flow and to kick off our new unit.
But stop and pause…There’s some authentic inquiry and action happening and I’m not listening…
My teaching partner told me in passing that the students had been complaining about the cafeteria food. In their mother tongue, Bengali, they had been thinking about how the food isn’t good and how there’s so much food thrown away. They thought maybe the cafeteria was loud because students weren’t busy eating the food. They even thought they might write a letter to see if they could take some action about it.
When I heard about it, I was in a rush. We were on our way to a meeting, coming from another meeting. We were completing planners, doing paperwork. I casually said that maybe they could work on some of their Bengali writing skills by writing a letter to the principal.
And then, I stopped and paused. Wait.
Our students were just coming up with their own authentic inquiry. Their own passion and call to action, and it almost slipped by. My teaching partner had told me that the students were upset and engaged. They were trying to make connections and already thinking forward to action. They actually were practicing their process of analysis, which we had just learned and practiced in our last unit.
And I almost missed it.
So now…to incorporate their passion. We need to make time for their inquiry. We need to help guide them in their research into the issue–surveys, observations, interviews, talks with the administration and board. We need to show them how to slow down to analyze this issue their concerned about. And then we need to let them evaluate different ways to take action.
I remember when my 5th graders in Yokohama took their-own initiated action in a water bottle protest. It took us over the course of months, incorporating math, language, tying in with units, and everyone remembered it as being one of the best learning experiences.
This inquiry could be similar…and I almost missed it.
Stop, pause, inquire…It’s what authentic learning is all about.