My son Marcus is a determined child. He knows what he wants and finds ways to get what he wants. He loves to play with coins (yeah, we all love money!). The problem is his little brother, James. James is also a very determined little guy (and he has red hair, complete with temper) and loves to put things in his mouth. So, sufficed to say, 16 month old and coins, no-go.
You will notice that there is a lock on Marcus’ piggy bank…and it is still locked.
But Marcus has found a way around that annoying problem. He opened the metal tabs on the back of the bank! So, while I was putting James down for a nap, he was happily sorting his coins and making towers.
What does this have to do with teaching? Well, a week ago I got a fantastic brand-new MacBook Pro. I love it and am grateful for the opportunity to use innovation in my classroom. Problem is, it is imaged with the district’s standard image (not that there is anything really wrong with that). I quickly became frustrated that I couldn’t make it “mine” (couldn’t even change the trackpad settings, download Twitter, Evernote etc.) (I know it sounds silly to care about track pad settings, but after so many years of piano performance, my hands and wrists aren’t as agreeable as they once were, so clicking or tapping makes a difference to me!) I had no permissions. Just like poor little Marcus.
The interesting thing is that after I got over my “mom outrage” I realized that Marcus was quite clever, and we proceeded to play, sort, count and stack for over an hour.
He learned so much, was engaged and asked all sorts of questions. To think I almost missed that moment by thinking I had to teach him about following the rules (we had that talk later…)
So back to the MacBook problem. How do I make it mine and still follow the rules? (I could hack it, but that is against my ethics). I think it is time to ask. “If you don’t ask, you can’t complain about it” was a phrase that stuck in my head when I attended a professional learning day with George Couros last week. So I asked. We will see where that goes. I’m sure I am not the only one who would like permission to personalize my laptop, so I am optimistic.
Where this really gets interesting, is how many times have I stopped a learning opportunity in my classroom because the child wasn’t “following the rules”? Are there rules that must always be followed? When is it OK to break the rules? Should there really be rules in the first place?
I am thinking I need to re-evaluate what rules are about. Perhaps a better solution is to foster independence and teach students to think critically and make thoughtful choices. Make my classroom a place where we say yes more than we say no.
After all, Marcus knew enough to wait until James was in bed before opening his piggy bank, and he didn’t try to hide it from me…that shows he is thinking, and tonight, that is good enough for me!
What do you think about rules?