I’ve been reading Will Richardson’s book “Why School” recently and I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting about how school “should be”.
Two days ago, I had a class of grade four students in my room. They were busy working away when I casually asked a student sitting near me if I could ask them a question:
If you were in charge of school, what would it be like?
I don’t think I was quite prepared for the level of excitement asking this question would cause. Though I had only quietly asked it to one student, before I knew it, the question had spread through most of the class and a crowd of students grew around me, spurting out answers more quickly than I could jot them down.
The bell rang for recess but that didn’t stop the conversation. Twenty minutes into the break, I finally sent the group of students on their way – but not before i promised that the students could return the next day if they had any more ideas. This morning, 30 seconds after the bell rang for our first recess, I had a crowd of students back again – this time, armed with notebooks full of ideas!
How often do we ask students to design their own learning? I have realized that, for me, the answer is not often enough.
I am so motivated by my students’ suggestions.
Some were fantasy:
- I want to jump off the roof into a giant pool of cotton candy.
Some were silly-but-not-impossible (they could happen once in a while for a special event!):
- I want to have a bouncy castle.
- I want to pie teachers.
- Free popcorn day.
- Watch a movie and eat ice cream.
- Pizza & birthday parties.
- Have a parade with floats.
Some may seem out of the question at first, but at closer inspection could have real merit:
- The principal should give us real money. At first I imagine dollar bills being thrown out at assemblies, but then I think – a student proposal for a good idea with a well-planned budget could cause the principal to give students “real money”.
- We should invite celebrities to visit. We can dream big, right? Certainly, “celebrities” in the eyes of our students could mean many things. They love a great, inspirational guest speaker. Via videoconference or through twitter there are lots of opportunities to connect with experts and those our students admire.
The large bulk of ideas, though, are ones I would classify as “why not?!”. Some are things they do already, but want to have more of and others are new ideas.
- More technology
- Be always allowed to use our phones to research
- More time to play soccer and football
- Lego mechanics and robotics
- More coding
- Build our own arcade
- Do more art, and especially painting
- Learn new languages (e.g., I am learning Italian on duolingo at home, I want to do that at school too)
- More gym
- Gymnastics lessons
- Obstacle courses
- More time for playing outside
- Be allowed to chew gum
- Skype with other classes
- Field trip to the zoo
- Have a class pet
- Nature club
- Dance club
- Students can go in the staff room
- Make food with a chef
- Have a sand box
- Play with water outside on a nice day
- More exercise
- Giant studio for making movies
- We should build a hoverboard
- Create realistic (virtual reality) games
- Paint on the walls
- Paint the portables
- Minecraft (including creating mods)
- We should bake something special for each celebration
- Secret Santa for the whole school
- We should eat, drink and use the washroom whenever we want
- We should use remote control cars, helicopters and drones
- Make paper airplanes
- Build our own games and apps
- We should play Clash of Clans
- Knitting and sewing
- Build stuff outside like play houses and an ice rink
- Be allowed to talk
- Be allowed to choose where to sit
- Make websites
- Make YouTube channels
- Have lots of magnets
- Learn game strategy and write gamers’ guides
- Build robots that can do stuff (like paint)
- Film advertisements for school events
- Decorate the school
- Be allowed to play games like roblox, xbox and wii
- No homework
- No tests – instead share what you know with a list, reflection or rating
- Invite the news to share what we are doing
- Have class presidents
- Choose the rules
- Pick where we want to go for field trips
- Go to Wonderland
- Pick who is in our class
- Visit your old teachers
- Do presentations without boys
- Free smoothies
- Stay in for recess when you want
- Stay after school to help the teacher
- Do the announcements
- Throw a surprise party
- Have a party for staff birthdays in the gym
- Fun Friday
- Fun day at the park
- Games day
- Do whatever you want day
- Game night with our families
- Minecraft night with parents
- Thanksgiving feast
- Thank you for being the best principal party
And some ideas stood out to me as just plain awesome.
- We should have free time most of the time to choose what to do.
- We should invite our families to come see what we’re doing.
- Students should teach teachers.
- We should have a girl mascot, too.
- We should go on field trips to other schools to present our talents and teach other students technology.
- We should build our own devices.
- We should lead our own assemblies, without any teachers helping.
- We should raise money for sick kids or for kids that don’t have what we do.