Oh, how education has changed. In my youthful days of teaching, there were so many things that we were able to do. We had projects that we involved the kids in that enhanced our curriculum. Some of them took a long time to accomplish, especially since we had no technology to rapidly give us information or print out our writing and graphics. We had to be neat with our work that was all done by hand. Even as more technology came out, learning how to type and work with it took time. But that was okay because we had it. Nowadays, that is less possible, because of all of the mandated programs and linear timelines that you have to follow; we are trying too hard to become the same. Creativity is not a mandated curriculum.
Control of your class and have the time to learn more about each of the students and them for each other is much more difficult.
One of the things I learned back then, is that more we understood each other, the more we were able to accept and cooperate with each other. There was a program that my teammate and I used called, Magic Circle.
This tool accomplished all of the above. Each day we sat in a circle. As the leader in the beginning of the year, I would announce the topic to share. There were themes that these topics came in, such as Awareness, Social Interaction, and Mastery. For example, the topic for today is, “A time when I learned something new.” Now anyone that wanted to share could share. There was no forcing of students to say anything. Following all of the sharing, we would review what everyone one said. “Mr. Heilbrun, you said that you learned how to skate when your neighbor invited you to their rink”. The focus in review was that you had to speak directly to the person you were reviewing. As soon as you started saying, “She said…” you would be stopped and reminded to talk to the person not about them.
As the year progressed, students were able to take part in the leadership role. I would give them the topic and they would run the Circle. Following the review, I would retake control as the students were allowed to tell the leader what they did well as the leader.
This had nothing to do with our curriculum. It took about 15 minutes to 30 minutes a day. I only know how effective it was, when I stopped doing it, due to time restraints or when there was too much I had to accomplish before the end of the year. The atmosphere in the class became more tense, with less listening to each other, more conflicts, and the volume of noise increased.
My favorite topic was late in the year when the topic was, “Something about you that I like”. Kids bombarded each other with positive feedback. I made sure that everyone was shared about. And with this topic, everyone had to review not what was said to someone, but what was shared about themselves.
One of my most memorable Magic Circle events had to do with a child with Down’s Syndrome that I had in my class. You can read about it in a previous blog entry: http://www.hdhstory.net/Storyblog/?p=271
I only wish, in these days of progressive education, where the goal seems to be teaching kids how to survive in a frenetic world, that we took the time to teach kids how to listen well to each other, be creative and explore as they learn about the world and themselves. I think education would be a lot more fun.