We were just about to finish our unit on Poetry and so my students started to write their own poems, applying what they’ve learnt about the unit. One of my students decided to write a poem about what the youth of India wants or aspire for. I feel that I keep on trying my best to consistently consider my students’ perspectives about many things and consistently learning and applying the theories and teaching practices on how to have a student centred environment. As I brainstormed and planned with Thea, I thought that despite my continuous effort, I know I haven’t heard everything yet. And so she went…
“I think the kids of India want to feel that they’re important. This means not to be ignored, and to earn the same respect, meaning ‘equal’ with adults. Not just in the way of greeting, but in the way of talking with each other. Be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. To let them rise up by sharing their ideas. To have a place in everybody’s heart.”
Having to hear this made me feel relieved as her words just validated our practices in the IB PYP. This is a perspective of what a ‘kid’ in India wants, and it might be true for the rest of the 40% of India’s total population. We can also assume that this might be true for the rest of the youth around the world. If we don’t care about what they aspire for, then we can all assume the tremendous mistake we are making.
I am fulfilled and blessed to belong in an educational organization that encourages students to ask questions, allowing them to make mistakes along the way and supporting them to learn from them; considering students as major collaborators and making them responsible for their own learning; allowing and accepting them for who they are, and making them the heart of the learning community; giving them the voice and the choice, and empowering them to use them in order to help make a difference.
But the matter of fact is, you don’t have to be a PYP teacher to do all these. You just have to learn how to listen. You just have to value the youth. You just have to let go of the perhaps ‘old’ perspectives about children. You just have to accept that it’s now a different world and it is alright to be different.
I am not perfect in the classroom and in life, and I know I would always fail. But despite the challenges I face as a teacher, I’m happy and confident to say that I can sleep well every night, thinking that somehow I am doing something right.
Grade 4 Wonderopolis Project Chart
A few days back, I came across this amazing website called “Wonderopolis” (http://wonderopolis.org/), with the perfect tagline: Where The Wonders of Learning Never Cease. Now, who wouldn’t be fascinated? I want a world exactly like that. I like the idea of wondering (obviously), but I also love for the wondering to be heard in class. To actually get inside the brains of my students and know what on earth are they thinking! Whenever they stare in space. During lunch time. Whenever they see a peculiar object. How they view people, how they see the world. It’s funny how we teach things that we adults think are important to know, when our students ask the questions that reveal the things that are important to them.
I started the Wonderopolis Project, and immediately it had an impact on my students. My purpose is simple: to make inquiry fun, personal and more consistent. I asked them on a voluntary basis who wanted to join the project. The volunteers wrote one wondering on a post-it note. Each of them would have the opportunity to share, depending on which day they fall at. A lot of them asked if they can write more wonderings.
The wonderings are hilarious and interesting! From “Do girls flush their toilets?” to “Why do Cheetahs run so fast?” to “Who made God?” Things I’ve learned from my students: 1) I don’t have all the answers and there are so many things that I don’t know; 2) I discovered that they wanted to know more about their teachers; 3) I learned about the things that matter to them.
My students inquiring about my family tree.
Are they simple questions? Maybe yes, maybe no. But somehow I know they are valuable. For instance, my students inquired about my family tree for her Wonderopolis project. As we were working on it, she and some of her classmates were shocked about how big my family tree is. This led to learning about the Filipino and Indian culture, the similarities and differences. This led to the differences amongst generations, the life before and now. This led to some of the current issues families are facing. It wasn’t just about my family tree- it was about culture, history and issues. I can’t wait to see where ‘do girls flush their toilets’ will bring us.
I’m looking forward to more exciting Wonderopolis Project sessions with my students. I thanked one of my students for being so passionate about the project and shared to her how I enjoyed it. Her answer: even I.