I’m on a break from the classroom at the moment.
More specifically I am in a totally new classroom, containing only two students, my beautiful 3-year-old Thea, and almost 1-year-old Evie. That’s right, right now I am a stay at home Mama. It is not easy, but it is still joy-filled.
The other day Thea was watching the Magic school bus while I tried my best to wrestle her knot prone hair into some semblance of order. Between brushes and sprays of detangler, I tuned into the show. I remembered how I used to watch it as a child and how much I loved Ms Frizzle and her magic school bus.
Let’s be clear not every teacher has an ultra high tech, totally immersible and amphibian vehicle at their beck and call. It’s also true that not every teacher has the budget or the time to pick out the banging and super fabulous outfits the Frizz seems to choose on a daily basis.
BUT every teacher has the opportunity to offer their students their passion.
The episode I watched featured Arnold and Keesha forgetting to bring their joint project to school. The project was asking them to find two beach/water objects that had a relationship to each other. The rest of the class was proudly sharing their projects and getting excited for the field trip, while Keesha and Arnold sat terrified about being found out.
They hurriedly tried to find something in their backpacks before Ms Frizzle entered the room and were totally freaking out that she would realise that they’d forgotten their homework.
It ended up that they had a tuna sandwich and a slimy shoe.
Great right? I can see you shaking your head in horror.
It was very clear from this episode that like many of the students in our classes Keesha and Arnold were not terrified of a bad mark. They were terrified of disappointing their teacher. They hadn’t forgotten the project on purpose, it had slipped their mind.
What do you do when a child in your class forgets their homework? Or doesn’t complete the assigned project on time?
I know I have been guilty in the past of taking a hard line rather than stopping and thinking first about what learning opportunity could be had.
But what did Ms Frizzle do?
She realised they’d forgotten, but still saw a learning opportunity in what they had thrown together last minute. More so, she gave them space and the grace to learn something new. She seemed to innately know that her students had something to gain from realising for themselves where the connection lay between Arnold’s slimy shoe and Keesha’s tuna sandwich.
How do they relate I hear you asking? Well, slime is actually made of phytoplankton which in turn is eaten by a range of other creatures until they are eaten by tuna fish, who are then eaten by us. And so there you have it, they are connected through the food chain. It seems simple right?
But would Arnold and Keesha have made that connection by themselves?
No, they were aptly guided by Ms Frizzle to find the connection themselves through a carefully crafted learning experience. With just the right amount of questioning, guiding and prompting on the side.
Of course, this learning took place by heading to the beach in their MAGIC SCHOOL BUS (I know you want one too!) and shrinking down to go underwater in a submarine, becoming a phytoplankton, and identifying each and every part of the food chain until reaching tuna. Then light bulb, connection occurs.
Yes, you are right, we don’t have the magic school bus at our disposal (wouldn’t that be a great thing to campaign for on our next pay negotiations). But we have something better. We have real kids, the ability to make space in our learning programme for deeper connections and a seemingly endless supply of resources available to us on the internet.
What I am trying to get at, is that an ordinary teacher would’ve had those two students working lunchtime to get the assignment complete. Or worse might have pulled out some punitive punishment like writing lines or picking up rubbish to make them “pay” for their forgetfulness.
Can I ask you, do either of those really teach our students to nut out their problems? Build connections through authentic experiences? Know that they can make mistakes and still be given grace and love and space to learn what they need to know?
I know if it was me I’d want a Miss Frizzle as my teacher any day of the week.
In our hurry to complete work and meet deadlines, let us pause, consider and take a ride on our own class magic school bus.
This is where true connection and deeper learning will occur.
I hope when I return to the classroom and when I am teaching my own children that I am a Ms Frizzle.