Monday, September 24, 2012

Spontaneity Part I: Genuine Spontaneity

To be perfectly honest, school has a tendency to get boring . . . IF you let it.  You are the teacher and you have the ability (and the responsibility) to keep it from becoming boring.  Yes, it takes a little creativity, but it’s really not that hard if you do two things:

1.  Take advantage of unusual things that happen to “pop up” during the day.
2.  Plan a few “spontaneous” activities on purpose.  You will know that they are coming, but the students will not, and thus the activities will have the same effect as something genuinely “spontaneous” to them.

The following post covers planned spontaneity.  This first post will focus on taking advantage of things that naturally occur without you planning them.  These are easy!  All you have to do is recognize when one happens.  Here are a few examples.

1.  One day one of students brought a doll to school.  It was a large doll and it was in the aisle.  I actually tripped over it.  I laughed and didn’t think much of it.......until the next day when there were about five dolls in school.  Then I said, “I think the dolls need to take a nap.”  They all smiled, obediently took their dolls to the “couch room”, and only played with them at lunch, after school, or when we gave them permission.  
They got quite creative.  The dolls began to turn in papers to be graded.  (Which we graded and returned, of course.)  One doll played kick ball during recess.  (Her owner actually had the doll kick the ball and then carried it as she ran.)  It was lots of fun and we didn’t do anything.  It was all the students’ idea.  Listen when they ask for  permission to do something unusual, and be creative when they do something.  


Here is a doll “showing” his shell for science time.  

CAUTION:  Always use good judgement.  While bringing dolls to school is harmless, having a “mohawk” day is not.  
(Not to break the flow of the writing here, but there is a little story explaining the above photograph at the end of the post if you are still reading at that point :-).   

2.  Stop by that really interesting church built in the late 1800’s on the way home from a field trip and read the historical marker out front.  Take a few minutes to go inside it if you can.  Take a picture to remember it by.

3.  If students bring in an interesting live animal for “science”  (see post “Morning Devotions and Science” HERE), let them bring it to class or keep it in the schoolhouse if possible.  We’ve had cats jump up on fish tanks to take a drink, cats get lost inside our couch, birds sitting on fingers and shoulders, and snakes get loose on accident.  With good rules always enforced (see “rules” post HERE  ) it never got too distracting or chaotic, and it was a LOT of fun.
4.  Look for unusual happenings.  Stop what you are doing and enjoy the moment.  One day at recess one of our 3rd graders took off his coat and threw it up in the air.  It flew in the wind and stuck to the backstop fence up in the air.  The students laughed.  The teacher told more of them to throw their coats up in the air. They did, and more coats were stuck fast to the fence.  Then the teacher came and interrupted a history class (mine) and had all the older students go outside and throw their coats up in the air also.  All the students in the school were outside throwing coats and enjoying the pretty “art”.  We all had a great time and it made a great memory. 

5.  If something unusual is going on outside, take a few minutes and let the children look out the window, or go outside to see what is happening.  We’ve gone outside to watch the geese flying south for the winter and listen to their honking, looked out the window every time the big truck delivered oil, and opened our window to talk to and watch the bricklayers putting bricks on the outside of our schoolhouse.  (We also practiced speaking some Spanish that we’d be learning and asked them if they’d add some of our big fossils into the limestone on the front of the school-- which they did.)


6.  Especially in the winter, take the class to a different room.  If you don’t already move their desks around fairly frequently, start doing that too.  Move the entire room around if you can.  Have them write their journals anywhere inside the school they want to.  Tell them to go and sit in front of a piece of art or furniture and describe it.  On the first nice day of spring take your reading books outside and sit in the sunshine.  They will still get their work done and you all will have really enjoyed the day-- and probably learned something too.
The day the brick layers came the workers were banging some sort of supports into the walls.  They were banging and banging away.  Even my extremely loud voice wasn’t overpowering it.  We decided to go over to the church house (which already had the bricks on it) and did school there-- on the pews, under the pews, wherever they wanted to as long as they were quiet and did their work-- and they did.  :-)

7.  If the students ask to help, or even “teach” the class for a few minutes and you trust them, let them.  Last year the sixth grade boys would begin every social studies class for me by putting in the Geography Songs CD and then using the pointer to identify the countries while I got my books together.  (This is a great CD to use to memorize all the states and countries [from  There is also an a capella version also if you ask for it.])
8.  Listen to other’s ideas.  One year we were having the most difficult time finding 40 plus yards of matching fabric for our end-of-the-year program dresses.  Someone suggested that we wear Chinese jackets instead.  We’d been learning about China, eating with chop sticks, making scrolls with Chinese calligraphy . . . why not?  We did.   They were about the same price as the fabric and we didn’t have to sew!  
(And here is the story explaining all the Amish dolls you saw earlier.)

One year it was nearing the last auction of the school term, where the students get to spend their hard-earned fake money to buy items donated by church members and the school board.  Because it was the last auction of the year, and because we had wonderful students, I was determined to get EVERYTHING they had written down in their journals that they would like to see at the auction.  (They may suggest three items.)  We had gotten just about everything on the list, except the last item . . . Amish doll clothes.

I wondered where on earth I was going to find these.  There were no Amish around for miles.  I thought about sewing them.  It was the last week of school.  We had the program, report cards, awards, auction, and the last day of school to plan for.  There was no way I could sew some.  So, I decided just to let it go and not worry about it.

The next week we traveled to a wedding in Ohio.  It was five hours away and we arrived a little early.  It was a Saturday and we had time to stop at just one garage sale.  It just so happened that it was an Amish family having the garage sale, and they had a clothesline full of beautiful little dresses-- all very reasonably priced.  I got enough for all the dolls.  

God knows when each sparrow falls, He knows the number of hairs on our head, and He knows when we really don’t need Amish doll clothes, but He loves us and provides them anyway. 

To read part II, click HERE.