Common Sense & Education

Notes from a Progressive Classroom

Flo unintentionally let one rip in mindfulness circle yesterday. She totally owned it, which was awesome. Of course, it caused a lot of giggles from the girls and boys, including me. Lesson of the moment: Everybody farts.

Let me back up a little.

This is my third year of teaching at LIFE School, a small, private, bilingual school in Panajachel, Guatemala. I am the English/language arts teacher for grades 3, 4 & 6. I have three classes, with 14, 10 and 9 students apiece. This is a manageable workload, compared to what classroom teachers are asked to do in the US public school system, and even in most large international schools.

Although we use the controversial Common Core, we are not bound to it. We do not give standardized tests but we do send home report cards with percentage grades. All this is to say, my school is progressive, but it’s still a school.

One question I’m living these days is, how can I, within the school “system”, become a more mindful teacher with more mindful learners? There are lots of ways, which the budding community of EnlightenEd learners will be exploring and sharing.

Another question: what alternative, lifelong learning systems can we create (or revise), implement and replicate, outside of the traditional school model?

How can we put common sense into education?

Does it make sense to group kids by age? Does it make sense to have them sit at desks for many hours each day? Does it make sense to deliver a standardized curriculum to all students by grade level? Does it make sense to make them prepare for and take multiple choice tests that do nothing but provide the government with data for ranking statistics.

Doesn’t it make more sense to mix up age groups, such as in real life in the community? Doesn’t it make more sense for a child or person of any age to be motivated by their interests and passions, to learn what they want to learn, when they are ready to learn it, at their own pace? Doesn’t it make more sense to assess learning through projects and individual attention to each learner’s weaknesses, strengths, goals, dreams and skills?

How can we use common sense in our own learning and in the ways we teach and mentor others?

For me, yesterday, it was going with the flow of the moment. Somebody farted. She laughed. We laughed. It was the highlight of my Friday afternoon, for sure. It was a real moment, something the Common Core can never account for.

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