Thursday, October 21, 2010

Guano, Rotors, and Other Things I Finally Learned

     Schema is a funny word, isn't it?  A teacher I know refuses to use the word because she doesn't believe it is actually a word.  I think she is kidding, but I'm not sure.  My kids love the word.  Maybe because it sounds so scientific or maybe because words don't scare kids as much as they scare us.
     I love teaching schema because it is so big.  We all have schema.  We all use schema.  Even little babies have schema.  It is one of the things that helps us survive in the world.  One of the greatest fears of aging is losing our memories...our sense of self...our schema.
     Once I videotaped some kids for a schema lesson.  Each kid shared a one-minute talk on a subject he or she had schema for. One girl talked about her illness and the surgeries, tests, and procedures that ruled her world.  Another boy told me about his schema for paintball strategies.  A third explained skateboarding.  It is amazing how much expertise the kids have when we ask them and then listen to what they say. 
     I love hearing the kids using the terms I teach them in class.  Today we played a game using their schema for surviving in the desert.  One boy high-fived a teammate and said, "We are so going to get that point.  You have awesome schema for this question."  After one disputed question on surviving a rattlesnake bite, one boy said, "Where did you get that answer from, Ms. Cooke?  Your schema?"  Flashbacks to middle school algebra.  :)
     I am really good at admitting all of the things I don't know.  Reading Deathwatch has me far out of my league, but it is a good thing.  It has been a great experience to read a new book from a genre I wouldn't pick for myself and admit all the things I don't understand.  The boys in my class love to share their schema.  This week they taught me guano is not a good smell to have in your water, and taking the bolt out of a gun makes you unable to load ammunition in it.  I also learned something about rotors being necessary to run your jeep as you escape.  I got lost in the explanation, but I'm sure it was brilliant.
     It's funny how the kids who struggle the most with reading are the ones who are most engaged in class and the book.  Funny, they are also the ones that are the experts on hunting and cars and survival.  By admitting I don't know and asking them to share their knowledge with me, we have a totally different feeling in class.  I am no longer the Sage on the Stage.  I am a Guide on the Side - learning along with them.  It is humbling to admit I am not an expert in everything, but it is very liberating for the kids who are never seen as experts on anything.  

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