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Awe and Wonder

I’d like to share a personal reflection with you. That’s sometimes frowned upon in this sort of forum, but it’s a topic that I keep coming back to.

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This is a photo of my son, Oliver (then 8). It’s taken during a rainy walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The whole way across, he was totally engaged with the experience: counting steps and calculating distances (as only a 8 year old can!), taking photos and gazing open-mouthed at the wonder of the amazing construction. As a teacher, I saw this look a few times on my students’ faces. And quite a lot of the time I didn’t. At home, I see it a lot, when Oliver is building stuff out of Lego, drawing, creating crazy contraptions and imaginative storylines in the backyard, writing songs (oh my goodness, so cute!), on Minecraft or just noodling around the net on his iPad.

Just a couple of days earlier, I’d attended the EduTech conference where the very passionate and interesting Roger Pryor had spoken of the need for ‘awe and wonder’ in the classroom. That students should be excited to come to school every day. That they should be exploring and creating and analysing an talking and all those wonderful things. Actually, engagement, ownership of the learning and the changing classroom were themes of the conference. That diversity is normal. That technology use is normal everywhere (except school). That we can’t afford not to personalise education. That if mainstream education was like ‘alternative’ education, we wouldn’t need alternative education, because people wouldn’t be dropping out.

Luckily, Oliver is generally happy to go to school, and he has a fantastic teacher that makes the day interesting. And I know that there are many teachers in Canberra that strive to create fantastic learning experiences for their students (a few of them contribute to this blog!), but there always seem to be ‘bits’ that are boring or irrelevant. I know I’m guilty of providing them. Why is this? Is it the structure of schools? Is it the curriculum? Is it our teaching practice? Is it the technology? Is it the expectations placed upon us by the community and society? Is it the kids? Do they need to be 100% engaged all day, every day?

I don’t know the answers, but I’d love to know your thoughts.

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1 Comment

  1. Shaun says:

    Hi Mel,

    It think it may have a lot to do with the ‘way’ we set up the class – that being one teacher to manage one class. This works through from primary to high school. Then, in high school the teacher is responsible for managing 5 separate classes on their own. Perhaps if were there more opportunities for team teaching, and a reduction in the admin load outside of class, this could provide more opportunites for teachers and students to be involved in deeper and more authentic learning experiences. Teachers could collaborate with each other’s expertise in facilitating some quality learning, and the needs of the students could be catered to with more than one educator in the classroom. It may also be the case that the burn out of one teacher to one class could be mitigated by organising energetic teaching teams for students. This is not a ‘silver bullet’ to getting students learning with ‘wonderment and awe’, but it would be a positive step.

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