Saturday, August 30, 2008

Peace Summit 2008

Three full weeks of school...exhaustion, stress, ridiculous expectations, literal mountains of paperwork, lesson plans, meetings, meetings, meetings, and did I mention ridiculous expectations??? Despite all of the hardships of my career, every once in awhile something like this makes it all worth it...

Yesterday, I had THE best day with my entire cluster of much so that I wondered if I should be getting paid to have this much fun! Of course, I should...everyday in education should be like that. Sadly, it is not...but fortunately I have had enough days like this one to keep me in the profession for the last 13 years.

The scenario: Mayor Magallano (that would be me) has called for a "town hall" style meeting with all of the animal groups that live in the Segowlee Cantonment, an army base in India (the fictional setting for Rudyard Kipling's classic "Rikki Tikki Tavi"). Apparently, a severe conflict has erupted among the animal groups, and some loss of life has even occured. The insurrection groups involve: the mongooses, the cobras, the tailorbirds, the muskrats, and the humans. These groups have been invited to come to the Peace Summit to present their positions on the violent happenings in our cantonment and their proposals for a non-violent solution to this conflict. The Town Council shall listen to the proposals and select the best one- the one that would be appealing and fair to all of the animals as well as the one that furthers our vision of non-violence.

The reality: Each student in all four of my classes selected a card from an envelope that put them in one of the five groups listed above. Next, for three days prior to the Peace Summit, my students planned, prepared, researched, and put together such wonderful speeches. Yesterday, our Peace Summit happened in each of my four classes. I had no idea what to expect, but I was hoping for the best, after all, I am Mayor Magallano, and I was looking for a non-violent solution to the conflict. What I got was far superior to any of my hopes and expectations! My students were passionate; they were cheerleaders for their animal groups; they thought on their feet, answered questions from the Town Council and a "reporter" guest (our Instructional Lead Teacher came in for a visit to watch the proceedings during 4th period), and most of all, they were critically thinking to solve problems and come to a peaceful solution. In each class, the Town Council deliberated at the end of the presentation and certainly selected the group with the best argument. At first, I feared that the most popular students would naturally be selected as the winners, but time and time again, I was amazed that the best and strongest arguments were chosen as the winners no matter who was in that group. One of the greatest things was many of my special needs students (in two out of my four classes) had speaking parts, and they completely rocked every time! I was glowing with pride and enthusiasm...

The Results: Besides having the time of our lives, my students were able to see outside of this classic story, into the nature of conflict and problem solving...they related this happening to the world around us- conflict in their own lives as well as, in the global community. All day, the kids were buzzing with excitement- in the morning when they saw the room rearranged for our proceedings, during the day, between classes, and well into the latter part of the afternoon. I heard normal chatter as students walked by my room, but it was geared to things like, "Which group were you in?" and "Who won in your class?" During my last class of the day, (which is not an academic class, but a remediation class called Focus) the students came in literally begging to do the presentations again. We spent the next 40 minutes just having a conversation about why the experience was so meaningful to them, and how they could relate it to their lives...I was feeling on top of the world.

The Reality Part 2: After all was said and done for the day, I had to post my grades before I left the building. We had approximately one day to get this done...and obviously, I was far to busy throughout this particular day! So, needless to say, I did not leave the building last night until 6:15 pm! I was so quickly knocked back down to earth and to the mountains of paperwork I spoke of earlier! Thank God this is a long weekend, and I can rest up for another wonderful middle school experience next week!

Thanks for letting me gush about such a rare fun-filled middle school day...
I sincerely hope your Labor Day weekend is filled with fun and relaxation!

Image credit.


natalie said...

Oh, Andi...what a marvelous teacher you are!!! I love you!

Arizaphale said...

Oh Andi, Andi, Andi
I am so jealous of you! What a brilliant idea and a fantastic response. I dream of having kids that switched on. You obviously did a fantastic job of setting this all up and inspiring and scaffolding the skills needed to complete it successfully. Congratulations. I share your elation from afar. As for posting grades, you must be a whole lot more efficient at this than I am cos I was doing it at 3 in the morning last time :-)
Hope this weekend is a good one for you and that the rest of your week has not been too much of a let down after the brilliant Peace Summit!!!

just jamie said...

WOW! I don't know what grade you teach, but THAT IS SO COOL! What an amazing journey. Love it.