It is so interesting where ideas come from, and how a class can dramatically shift from one activity to the next. Being fluid and organic, and accepting that ideas are built on more ideas (and being flexible enough to evolve with them) leads to a dynamic environment. This is true in ecology, and also in the classroom.
We were working on area of a circle and the class was trying to get their heads around all the different parts of the various equations. I tried to make it interactive earlier in the week by having them rotate pencils, where the pencil could be either the radius or the diameter. This would lead to two very different circles. Once we had the radius or the diameter, we could plug it in and find the area, or the circumference. This series of lessons was created by ME, the teacher, and given to THEM, the students. For some, they go it. For others, it wasn’t sticking. I had to try again.
Next time, I thought I would do the same lesson, but the kids who got it would teach the kids who didn’t (Aside: I realize that I sorted and classified my students into two camps, whose that get it and those that don’t, and I have singled them out from the group. That is on purpose. As a community and a team, it is imperative that we tell each other when we are unsure of something, so those that do understand can help those that don’t. There is no shame in not understanding and asking someone who does for help. If all work together, we all go further. End Aside) This however, wasn’t working either. Until, one boy got down on the floor and started spinning. I immediately got everyone involved and watching this odd display.
Everyone watched as I grabbed this student and spun him around his center point.
He is the diameter, one child said.
What would happen if he was the radius? another asked.
As soon as I said that, the kids were off, rotating around on the floor, trying to be the radius or the diameter of a circle. I asked them to draw a picture (or use Pages on a MacBook) to find as many values of a circle as they could and be as specific as possible.
This was a great learning experience, but it was one that I could have never planned. If I did come up with this idea, and tell the kids to do it, would it have been the same? Instead of coming from ME, and going to THEM; this activity evolved from THEM and stayed withTHEM.
In this scenario, what was my role? Where do I fit into this system?
I guess my question now it this; in a decentralized classroom where the ideas are evolving from the collective, what is the role of the teacher? Are we a part of the collective? An agent in the system? Or do we have a bigger role to play? Perhaps, we serve as the consciousness? (This is an idea put forward by Brent Davis at the University of Calgary, you can download the article here, it is called Teacher as Consciousness of the Collective).
I don’t know (and never will!).