We had one of “those” moments recently. One of those moments when we had to stop and deviate a little bit and take a different path. It was one of those moments when I knew that the lesson I was supposed to teach was bigger than the writing lesson I had planned for the morning.
Let me tell a little bit of a back story. We had just finished Readers’ Workshop, and were heading towards the rainbow rug to start our Writers’ Workshop mini-lesson. I had met with three groups, done at least 4 individual conferences and assessments, and the room had been quiet and productive. At least it looked and sounded productive.
And then it all kind of went downhill. Evidently, there was a group of kiddos who were not, in fact, making an acceptable reading or writing choice during our work time. They were playing a game. Oh, and a game that was not appropriate for school, for that matter. 😦
We stopped what we were doing right then and there and talked through all the many layers of what was going on. First of all, the group of kiddos who had been playing were do so in such a way that NO ONE was the wiser that it wasn’t what they were actually supposed to be doing. Many kiddos in the room were baffled (ok, as was I!) how that was possible. Many said they had been sitting right there and didn’t even know. That’s just it–they were quiet, they were busy and they seemed like they were doing the right thing. We talked about how and why that could have happened and what we could all do to help ensure that every learner in our room was using their work time in the most useful way at all times. We agreed that this had been a bad call and everyone should do better to do the right thing next time.
Secondly, there was a layer of “I-saw-it-and-didn’t-join-in-but-also-didn’t-stop-it.” We had a really heartfelt conversation about why it was important NOT just to NOT join in, but also to be strong enough to say something when they see someone doing something they know isn’t ok. While I know they don’t truly understand the gravity of this, I have to begin to teach them this skill now, because they will need it for much bigger decisions in their future. Imagine what middle school would look like for them without being confident enough to stand up for what’s right. Or high school. Or LIFE for that matter. Yep, it begins now with these small lessons when they’re 7- and 8-years-old.
Then, there were a couple of friends who actually did wander over and join the fun because it looked really interesting. They took the “it’s-not-my-fault-because-it-was-my-idea” stance. Again, we had a great conversation about how this explanation doesn’t make sense because they actually participated in what was going on. Yeah, I know as adults this is clear, but for these 2nd grade friends, it was really hard for them to understand (or at least accept) that not being the originator of the idea doesn’t make them exempt from the consequence or responsibility. It wasn’t their idea to start it, but it was their idea and their choice to continue it and join in.
While this was obviously not one of our proudest moments as a group of learners (as far as choices and wise time usage goes), we definitely used the moment to our advantage and had some really important conversations. I am sure that by the end of the class meeting, everyone walked away learning something, ready to make a different decision next time–even the ones who didn’t really have any part in the trouble of the morning. Some will be stronger and stand up when they see something go awry, some will be wiser and use their time in a more appropriate way, some will choose to not go along with the crowd, and some will continue to do the right thing as an example to the rest of us. The best part is that everyone has the choice to do each of those things in whatever situation they find themselves in. And the even better part is that because of the community of friends and learners we have, we will do well to encourage each other to make the right choice as we go forward. What better lesson could we have had that day? Sometimes the best lessons are not the ones you plan for but the ones that just happen instead. 🙂