Blog 7: The Joy of Teaching by Leveling Out the Playing Field

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The Joy of Teaching by Leveling out the Playing Field

            Recess, a time period at school for laughing, playing, running, or hanging with your friends.  Children play at school for 15 to 30 minutes sessions as they enjoy and benefit from unstructured.  With minimal adult involvement, students make decisions, solve problems, and create stories as they play.  The bell rings and the bell is like a switch that turns off a child’s excitement for school.  Children scurry into the class as they settle in their desks ready to learn or ready to tune-out structured learning.  The level of engagement is dependent upon a teacher and the transfer between the minutes after children settle to a lesson.  The quality of teaching is influenced by teacher’s questions, how she guides learning, and student engagement.  In Choice Words by Peter Johnston, Johnston explains how the power differential between teacher and students can be leveled by focusing on “knowing” is more powerful than knowledge itself (58).  Johnston explains that student’s motivation to learn can be more productive through “we” comments than “I” questions (55).  Teachers and students are partners in the process of learning, together teachers and students can successfully contribute to maximize learning.

It is easier said than done for a teacher to level out the playing field with her students.  Johnson explains that a teacher can begin by helping students understand the importance of reflecting (55). Johnson reiterates the point by stating, “The teacher at once validates their voice, shows that she is listening, and opens the possibility for them to reflect on, modify, or challenge what has been said” (55). As a parent, I have found giving a child awareness that they have a voice and their voice matters is a powerful tool.  With my three children, they have learned how to communicate themselves respectfully, but also how to listen attentively.  My children also have learned to reflect by using critical thinking skills to help solve problems.

In earlier blogs I have written that in my home we use Family Meetings.  When a meeting is called, the person who calls a meeting is aware that all family members are on the same playing field; there is not a role that is more important than another.  The purpose of the meetings is to help my children to talk about their feelings with “I” statements, but at the end, we conclude with “we” solutions.

I have to admit that it was easier said than done when my family started using family meetings, but as with any concept when teaching children, I scaffold each step, and I modeled.  The power of reflection has reinforced their self-confidence and self-control.  At the end of meetings, my children hug and cry, but they resolve a problem with objectives of how to improve.  As a mother, I share the power with my children; I do not have to step-in to resolve their problem because they have learned how to have self-control and to solve their own problems.

As a teacher the same enthusiasm that is found in a play yard can be created in a class.  We can encourage our students to be reflective, learn from each other, and challenge them by managing the class, not the knowledge. Johnston shares “emphasis towards knowing than knowledge” (58) is important is dissolving the power differential.  Thus working with children and having my own, I have learned that we cannot want for students but allow them to learn by applying the principles of unstructured play to unstructured or unscripted learning.  We guide them, but students ultimately have the voice and the power for their future and their learning.


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3 Responses to Blog 7: The Joy of Teaching by Leveling Out the Playing Field

  1. I love how you use your family to show explains of listening. What kids learn at school should be applied at the home. In school we are not only taught subject matters but we are also taught life lesson that we need to use in our day to day life. We are taught how to be respectful, caring, and listen to others all in the classroom. Listening is very important to be taught at a young age. A child needs to be taught to listen to others when they are speaking because it teaches the child about respect. It is not only the job of the child to listen, but as well as the adults. As teachers it is your job to make sure you listen to the child when they are talking even if the child is wrong because it shows the child that you care. By showing that you care the child will be engaged in the classroom and be open for class discussion. If the teacher tells the child they are wrong right after the child answers the question the teacher is ruining the child’s confidence to ever answer again. Instead of the teacher telling the child they are wrong, the teacher should guide the student to the right path of how to answer the question the right way.


  2. I really like the way you connected this idea of “we” instead of “I” from school life back to your own home life. It shows you understand the concept. I like how you acknowledged that leveling the playing field is hard, because it is but then you kind of go into detail on how you personally do this at home. Family meetings are a great idea, I wish my parents would of done it because I’m sure things would of gone much smoother!


  3. Pingback: The Joy of Teaching by Leveling out the Playing…

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