I am just wrapping up a month of visiting Winnipeg schools in my role as a supervisor for education students practicing their craft in the classroom. This year I had the privilege of spending time in three different mixed grade one and two classrooms. I saw amazing things happening in all of them.
My student teacher was doing math problems with her six and seven-year olds that involved addition. These kids didn’t have pencil and paper. They were adding three digit numbers to three digit numbers in their heads! They had been taught ten different strategies for figuring out addition problems and not only could they complete the calculations mentally they could tell you which strategy they had used and why they had used it. Different kids used different strategies and that was applauded. It was amazing. They got it!
My student teacher had introduced her six and seven-year olds to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid. First they made a pyramid for themselves. What did they need to feel healthy, safe, loved, good about themselves, to be learners and have fun? Then the teacher read them stories and showed them videos about joeys (baby kangaroos) and they made a pyramid for them. One day I watched them work together as a class to make a pyramid for baby emperor penguins after seeing videos and reading books about them. It was amazing! They got it!
My student teacher is Metis and she did a social studies unit introducing her six and seven-year olds to her culture. She used a medicine wheel with them. A medicine wheel has four sections emotional, mental, physical, spiritual. I watched one day while the children took special items they had brought from home or had drawn pictures of and they placed them in the “correct” spoke on their own personal medicine wheel. They could explain why they had made the choices they did. A book might go in the mental section because it made them think. A feather might be placed into the spiritual spoke because it reminded them of creation. A picture of a favorite food might go in physical because it filled them up and a photo of a grandmother in emotional because they loved her. It was amazing! They got it!
Our schools are often criticized because they aren’t deemed to be doing a good enough job. I wonder how many people who criticize actually visit to see the great needs as well as potential particularly in Winnipeg’s inner city schools, to see the great work being done by so many teachers and to see the great kids who are being stretched and challenged to be the best they can be.