We had our first snowfall here last week in southern Ontario. It was nothing like Buffalo, but enough to make driving problematic. Fortunately, our infamous snowplow folks had the school’s parking lot shovelled by the time staff were arriving so parking wasn’t an issue – kudos to you! However, something looked funny out back. Like really funny. Like…like…like.
Yes, something was definitely not right behind the school. You see, the blacktop out back had NOT been shovelled. It was this beautiful white canvas where kids could run, roll, build and create. Some call that a “maker-space” but I digress. A vast land of white stretching from the bricked foundation all the way to the fenced perimeter. Endless goodness.
When you stop to think about your school’s yard in the winter, what do you notice? We are so accustomed to blacktops being shovelled and large hills being made. You know, “king of the hill” kind of hills. The ones where the biggest, strongest kid claims territory at the top and pushes everyone else below. The ones where holes get dug to house large amounts of snowball ammo. The same hills that teachers “police” every recess because the type of fun kids have on these hills is not allowed at school.
We no longer have those hills.
We keep joking at our school about the definition of insanity. You know, expecting a different result from the same action over and over again.
Every winter hills are made by snowplows. Every winter kids climb these hills. Every winter kids push off these hills and throw snow. It’s fun. I get it – I would too. Every winter teachers scold kids – usually the same ones – for having a little too much fun on these hills. Ever winter we encounter a “snow hill ban” of some sort. Every, every, every, every year. Every year we expect a different result. Every recess we expect a different result.
So we removed them. Hills that is – not students.
“Why won’t they ever learn?!?” Yes, that’s sarcasm. Sometimes I blog out-loud like I am the star of a Hollywood movie based on a famous blogger who says what they write in their head for the audience to hear because we can’t see the computer screen. I’m that blogger. “They” don’t ever learn because “they” are a different group of grade (4-8) students every year. Do you think they pass on a memo to the next group coming up saying “No King of the Hill”?
We decided the hills were the problem, not the students. Nothing, in terms of behaviour, has EVER changed on these hills. We got tired of the same silly fight so bah-bye hills.
Sure, I question the teachable moments outside as a teacher at the foot of those hills. But is it really worth it? What value do students get from a conversation about snow hill safety at school – when the kid really isn’t listening and says what you want to hear to get back on the hill! There is no such thing as snow hill safety after 3 pm dismissal. Go look at the local park on your way home.
The same logic applies to many outdated school rules. Let me list some that we have thrown out.
- Intermediate students must go outside at recess.
- Why? Duty teachers don’t even want to go outside. Removing this rule and providing a safe alternative means nobody is hiding in the bathroom all recess long and “up to no good”.
- The hat rule.
- I have visited this before. Read my thoughts here: http://brianaspinall.com/?p=318
- Sitting on (desks, window ledge, floor, etc.)
- Every time a teacher comes in to talk in my room, they hop up on a desk. Considering safety, its not crazy to think kids are human too and desks can be comfortable to sit on after hours in a chair. We purchased bean bag chairs and they are worth every penny. Even staff use them on PA days.
- Working along in the hall.
- Far too often teachers assume students will not remain on task if unsupervised and alone in the hall. We actually have more students in the hall than the classroom quite often. If they are engaged enough, the task will be completed. Ironically, we have had students ask to work IN THE CLASS because it was a quieter learning space than the hall.
I know I have listed some drastic and goofy rules – but I did so to make a point. Perhaps we should reconsider the archaic rules in education we still “enforce”. I still see “off and away” teachers texting themselves. Why the double-standard?
So I encourage other teachers out there to remove the snow hills. Whatever metaphor that is – take a risk. If you find yourself exhausted at night telling your significant other how shocked you are about a fight you had over something you cannot really control or explain, maybe the rule is the problem – especially if you keep fighting the same fight every time – expecting a different result. Nothing changes but your rapport with that student. School is about building relationships, not enforcement.
Sounds crazy, right? But think about it. Now I am not talking anarchy, so don’t go nuts in the comments. We need rules. Students need rules. But which ones? How about common sense rules?
We got tired of students hiding at recess and staff fighting with them time and time again so we created a “Chill Room”. A place for students to talk, collaborate, create, share, text and instagram (is that last one a verb?) instead of going outside. There is still a “duty” so what has really changed? I realize we need limits and so do students so don’t think we allow whatever the students decide. Just giving another example.
It’s a big step in the pedagogical approach to 21st century education. There I go with the buzzwords – contradicting myself from the last post. You know what I mean…..Don’t you? Pedagogy.
I can’t take credit for the snow hill removal. It was @icprin. His logic just makes sense so I wanted to share.
Stay dry and grounded tonight in this massive windstorm! (and code something).