Monday, March 21, 2011

Creativi-What? or Thoughts from a Third Grade Teacher

21 March 2011

Sometimes, I wonder if I should stand in awe of my students’ ingenuity… or simply be annoyed at their way of getting around the rules!

For instance, I walked into my classroom after school today and noticed this new desk-accessory – a water bottle lid rigged to catch pencil shavings at the student’s desk.  This MOSTLY makes me laugh, because:
1. I have to wonder when she found time to do this.  During class, I’m guessing?  Or where she got the tape.  (We have a serious shortage in grade 3…)
2. Really, this is a great idea.  And totally something I would do (though for some reason, making a pencil-shavings collector for my desk isn’t high on my list of things to create at the moment!)  Use whatever’s handy, and make it into something useful, creative, crafty, and cool. 
3. BUT… at the same time, students aren’t allowed to sharpen their pencils during class because:
     a. they make a mess of the shavings, and
     b. I don’t want kids up out of their seats or distracting anyone else. 

Most of these reasons are taken care of by this unique new design.  So... what to do from here?  Do I have everyone make pencil shaving holders?  Or just wait till someone else makes one, and then someone else… and pretty soon no one has a water bottle cap, but everyone is taking class time and tape to make their own personal pencil shaving holders?  Or do I say it’s not ok – shut down the ingenuity – and avoid any potential problems that might come my way?
My kids collecting data for our transportation unit outside HOPAC today.
How many dala-dalas, bajajs, *lorries*, bicycles, and cars do you think
pass by here in a 5-minute time frame?  Try over a hundred!
It’s a little thing.  And you probably have an answer that totally makes sense of what I should do.  But these little things make teaching a very thought-provoking process some days.  Because these kids are amazing.  Talkative... a little crazy... and most days, they make me laugh instead of cry… but AMAZING none-the-less.  And I don’t want to dash their creativity.  If that means finding ways to relate spellings and Bible verses to patterns and symbols for the mathematically-brilliant-but-linguistically-challenged child in my class, let’s do it!  Or if that means one of my artistic kids is busily drawing pictures of the Bible lesson I’m teaching on the back of her Bible verse cards at her desk, I’m - *deep breath* - willing to give it a shot.  But sometimes, even when these things aren’t inherently bad, and aren’t causing a problem at the moment… I know what can come out of it.

Take K'Nex.

My kids are EXPERTS at K’Nex.  Especially my class this year, who will all grow up to be super-duper-spacial-dimensional thinkers and designers of the Spaceship that will allow people to live outside the Solar System some day...  Or who will make reliable electricity and internet for Tanzania sustainable...  Or something else completely mind-boggling and awesome like that.

During personal best center time on Fridays (yes, Stocks friends, I actually brought it to the Land of Tanz!), my kids are always making some new creation, and every week they ask to save it till the next week to continue their creative process.  Harmless, right?
A few of the quick-creations my kids have made as of late...
Then again, I’ve tried it before.  Leave a K’Nex creation on the bookshelf, and pretty soon there are tiny pieces all over the floor, in the corners of the classroom, and under the bookshelves… never to be found again.  Or I put them in my store cupboard for safe keeping, where I am assured of stepping on them or hurting myself as I get materials out for class.  While I don’t want to squash the creativity of my kids one bit, I also want to have a somewhat orderly and less-distracting classroom!

So, I’ll have to keep striving to find a happy medium.  Like nixing keeping the K’Nex creations, but asking one of my budding architects to make a home-made 3-D scale model of the Israelite’s Tabernacle to share with the class instead.  (Pictures to come next week, hopefully!!!)  Or having them build their own cars out of Legos to race (for a day) at the end of our transportation unit this next week.  We’ll see how all this goes!

Each day is a new adventure.  Pray for wisdom in teaching as I keep plugging away and learning new things that work – and DON’T – in grade 3 every day!

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