Friday, August 16, 2013

How did you change your world?

Years ago, as principal of a small middle school in the middle of nowhere, the staff and I came up with an idea to provide elective offerings without elective teachers. We had just lost all our elective teachers due to budget cuts.

(We had  woodshop, computers, home ec., band, but budget cuts had eliminated these.)

On Fridays, all teachers taught a class of their choice, a hobby, an interest, something they would do for fun...
and students could then take six various classes of their choice, or one class all day long!

So, we discussed the logistics and because nobody had time to actually sign everybody up and balance the numbers, etc.. we took our chances and announced that students, on the first day could "drop in" and audit any class before signing up for it/them for the rest of the quarter.

We told students that the passing bell was a strict five minutes; if they didn't get to class within five minutes, they would be assigned one!

All students stayed put in that first class, fascinated by the new routine. Many ended up in the "wrong" class but liked it enough to remain. All learned something new, exciting, invigorating.

Most importantly, teachers felt they had a day off!
Oh yes, they had students with them, all day long, and new materials to explore with them,new people to get used to. But they were doing what they would do with their "leisure" time, and sharing their love with children who had never learned to play chess, or make a bird house.

Fridays were the most popular days of the week. Even parents dropped in to learn to make pizza, plant a garden, learn to design and construct a leaded glass window, sing, dance, write plays, construct sets...

We had no additional money for this experiment.
We had no additional people except volunteers that teachers pulled in.
We had a need to expose students to many skills and interests just the way we were exposed to many skills and interests in our youth to find our way to happiness and success.
We defined success over and over again, in terms of emotional growth, intellectual pursuit, physical stamina and expression, artistic expression, practical skills...

Without these opportunities to explore, create, express, our spirits stop living. We develop a disquietude that doesn't leave us.

We live our lives in precise terms, worried about this and that, concerned with what we "need".
What if we redefine our needs?

(Erin, your conversation sparked this response!)
What if everyday becomes a discovery of what gives us joy?


  1. I took residence for a couple of hours a week in the Home Economics room and taught students to make their own pizza. Yes, the class had more boys than girls and everyone had to return at lunch time after the dough had risen, to bake and eat their pizza.

    Our morning class allowed us to prep the condiments, and make the dough. The following week, I did the TV switch, bring an already risen dough to switch with the one we had prepared so we could go ahead and bake the one that had already risen. Children all took their own dough back home in a baggy, ready to bake for their families.

  2. I love this idea and wonder if our province-wide (Erin's also, I believe) curriculum could accommodate something like this.

    When my kids were young and in elementary school, there were a couple of wonderful teachers who gave of their time after school. One taught drama and the other introduced the kids to golf. To have actual regular classes learning what their educators love to teach would be a dream come true for most schools.

    Good for your and your group for establishing such a fine learning experience for your kids.

  3. What a great idea!

    Reminds me of conversations I have with my teenage grandson Kyle after he's finished working with his grandpa in the yard. Wherever the conversation goes. Maybe the world map, maybe what a will and a trust are, maybe immediate versus delayed gratification. He never walks away until his ride comes. Love it!

  4. oh what a cool idea...i doubt it would fly these days...but i do get to lead a club...after school once a week for creative writing and we have fun reading to each other and trying new things...

  5. What a wonderful idea! I'll bet the students remembered those Friday classes long after the others became a blur of the past.

  6. How wonderful that you guys did this! Our after school activities are all run by volunteers who send in their idea for a class for the elementary students. I'm considering doing a Beginner's Spanish class eventually, but I'm nervous. I think when it goes like this, when the teacher, whoever they may be, is teaching something they truly enjoy and have a passion for, it makes the class that much better.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  7. I believe the underused talent of our teachers is one of the greatest resources in our education systems. And here you found a way to utilize that. Good for you! Kids loved it; teachers loved it. Parents even came along. I don't think you could ask for anything better than that.

    Well done, Rosaria et al.!

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting
    Life in the Urban Forest (poetry)

  8. WOW! I am so inspired by this. Amazing what people can do when they are not micromanaged and given room to express their gifts and pursue their interests.

  9. I come from a long line of teachers...they are the sister retired from teaching five years ago but returned to full time teaching this year...if you don't mind I will share this with her. It was worth the read...congratulations on Post of the Week...great choices from Hilary

  10. What IF?!

    ALOHA, Friend
    from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral

  11. This sounds like it was a great idea – but you had to have special teachers interested in taking part too, some teachers don’t care that much. When I retired I wrote to the French teacher in the high school near me, offering that I come, whenever she wished, maybe several hours a week, no charge, to speak conversational French (as I know that this teacher’s French is not that good – she taught my girls…) well she was not interested. I offered at another high school – same thing, they said kids did not want to learn French anymore or something to that matter, even though they had classes in French. I said I could just talk about the culture and history instead of the language, still no interest in the least, and a friend who is Hungarian got the same answers – granted Georgia is number 48 in education….!

  12. learning and living, rosaria, why do we ever choose otherwise? success? this post demonstrates the best of success. i wish my children could be in your class. i would look forward to some of that dough coming home:)