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Melbourne, VIC, Australia
2nd Grade Teacher at a school in Melbourne, Australia. My job: push kids to think. My passion: helping kids to tackle the life-long skill of searching for meaning, skills, answers and more questions.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Rectifying those 4 mistakes I swore I'd never repeat.

You might recall that I led a bit of a fizzer of a philosophy session last week.

I swore that I'd not repeat four key mistakes:

1.  Assuming that 30 minutes is long enough to 'hold a philosophical discussion'
2.  Crapping on for way too long to set the scene and the theme.
3.  Moving outside into the sunshine.  Served as a distraction - not a positive novelty.
4.  Stopping the conversation shortly after the lunch bell
 You may also recall my four ideas for rectifying these mistakes in future:

1.  Not beginning philosophical discussions out of the blue. 
2.  Sticking to the plan of reading a story to begin the session.
3.  Sticking to the well-oiled machine that is our circle of inquiry in the classroom.
4.  Allowing kids to write their questions on the windows in chalk pen.

Well... yesterday, I ran another session.

I didn't abandon the idea / theme of power, freedom and responsibility.  
I got back on that horse!

The long and short of this late night update is that the session was WAAAAY smoother, deeper, clearer, more directed, more student lead, more engaging and more philosophical than the previous session.

1.  We started immediately after a chapel session where the chaplain was talking about finding the balance between freedom and responsibility.  The kids were already thinking about this topic.

2.  I offered no story this time, as I wanted to give maximum time to the discussion.  
We also had just been front-loaded with plenty to think about by Fr Richard.

3.  We had to move to the multi-purpose room as the AV guys were in my room trying to fix my smartboard again.  I didn't panic.  The kids brought their chairs and we kept it as similar to class as possible.

4.  I bought chalk pens for the windows.  The kids know that they can add to the conversation now for as long as the window carries this particular theme.

I started with a simple question - not very philosophical:

"Who has more freedom?  You or me?"

The kids passed Garfield around the circle of inquiry and built on each others' ideas beautifully.
Some kids questioned other kids' ideas.  Some kids openly disagreed with friends.  Some kids showed that they know more about the hours I work than I'd realised.  The conversation was naturally moved to:

"What kinds of freedom are there?"

Freedom to drive a car.  Freedom to do nothing when you want to do nothing.  Freedom to run and play all afternoon.  Freedom to buy what you want.  Freedom to spend time how you want.  Freedom to work where you want.  Freedom to work when you want.  Freedom to say what you want.  Freedom to think.  Freedom to believe.  Freedom to love.........

"If you have more power (a previous theme) do you have more freedom?"

This is where Clarkey pointed out one of my favourite Spiderman themes.  With great power comes great responsibility.  Seems I have a lot of power.  The kids' parents give me much power.  I have many choices to make about how to educate these kids.  I have autonomy.  In the words of He-Man, "I have the power!"
BUT... I also bear the responsibility that comes with that.
So.... Power doesn't necessarily mean more freedom.
Power can mean great responsibility and LESS freedom.

"Yeah... but it depends what type of freedom you're talking about, doesn't it," offered Gutsy.
Yes, Gutsy.  It sure does.
Garfield flew into my arms.
Every kid had spoken.
The lunch bell had rung.
We'd been at it for 30 minutes, but this time we had really made it somewhere.
The pens are ready to go for tomorrow when I write a few morsels on the window.

I shall keep whoever is interested in the journey informed on this space.
For now... Good night.

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