The Heroic Classroom – Enchantment
Heroic Quality of the Day: Enchantment
I teach in a tough school, in a tough part of town, in an overcrowded classroom full of students with all sorts of needs, behavioural challenges and social struggles. To the casual visitor it looks like I am just one of those lucky teachers with a focused class. Not the case, I assure you.
I am not magic, I promise. It is IE – through and through. It is student engagement.
I use IE as a framework for my planning. I explain to my students that engagement and investment in their own learning is why they feel the way they do about mollusks or ancient Greek class systems. We talk a lot about how the cognitive tools are keeping them in the flow. When students are in the flow, even in my tricky situation, mental work and growth is happening constantly. That hard work naturally leads to less shenanigans in the classroom.
I had a student last year who seemed to challenge anything I was doing. He claimed to be bored with anything I did. Obviously bored, eye rolling bored, super bored. One day, the class was conducting an experiment replicating the story of a king who was duped by a peddler claiming he could change the king’s sword from steel to gold. In the middle of experiment this student started questioning me about why he had to learn about chemistry, why he needed to know all this junk and all the typical whining that only 12-year-olds seem to be able to muster up. I couldn’t claim that he would ever need to know the difference between a colloid and an emulsion as an adult, but he did remind me that having the kids know what it is they are supposed to get out of lessons is just as important as teachers knowing. Let me fill you in on a secret. It isn’t about colloids or emulsions.
I am not all that concerned with curriculum……shhhh…. don’t tell anyone. Don’t get me wrong, I use the curriculum to guide what I teach but, I am more interested in their minds. I don’t need students spewing facts at me. It bores them and it bores me. I want them to understand how to tap into their minds and make use of cognitive tools. I want them to think deeply about what we are learning regardless of what the topic is. I teach my class directly about the theory of Imaginative Education. We talk about the cognitive tools, we talk about how it feels in their bodies to be interested in something and how it feels to fall into a black hole when you are curious. This is important. I want them to recognize that feeling. I want them to crave that feeling.
I want them to understand how to tap into their minds and make use of cognitive tools.
I responded to this slightly suspicious student with, “Buddy, I am not actually teaching you about chemistry. I am letting you practice how to be interested in any subject for the rest of your life.” He gave me a side-eye, nodded his head and went back to trying to turn his steel nail into copper, obviously into in his experiment. Spoiler – that student did manage to turn his nail into copper (well copper plated anyway). He checked on his experiment daily and later asked if we could leave the nail in the ‘magic’ solution for the rest of the month just to see what would happen. This self-proclaimed bored kid was engaged in chemistry. Regardless of what he questioned me about over the year I witnessed his engagement on a regular basis. I feel very strongly that employing cognitive tools in my classroom were a key part of his success in school last year. My hope is that giving students the basic understanding of IE theory will help them invest in whatever learning they encounter in the future.
You don’t have to be a magician to inspire your students to buy into lessons, you just need to conjure up some of those cognitive tools. Do yourself a favour and look into IE theory. I promise you, it will feel as if you have cast some sort of spell over your class.
Need to catch up? Take a look at some of the other posts from my Heroic Classroom series:
#1 Introduction to The Heroic Classroom
#2 The Heroic Classroom – Trust and Ownership
#3 The Heroic Classroom – Flexibility and Story
#4 The Heroic Classroom – Perseverance and Purpose
#5 The Heroic Classroom – Endurance
#6 The Heroic Classroom – Patience
#7 The Heroic Classroom – Assessment
#8 The Heroic Classroom – Duty
#9 The Heroic Classroom – Planning with Imagination
#10 The Heroic Classroom – Thrift
#11 The Heroic Classroom – The Return
Other posts by Christa Smith (formally Rawlings):
Check out this post in which I describe why I use cognitive tools in my teaching:
Using Cognitive Tools to teach Place Value to Grade 6 and 7 students: Place Value and Really Big Numbers