By Katie Huffner and Ensley Nesbitt, 2-3 Teachers
When I reflect on my childhood education, I remember how I struggled with learning to read and with memorizing multiplication facts and spelling words. If one believes there is a “straight and narrow path” toward success (to borrow Madeline Levine’s words), it was clear I wasn’t on it. Teaching at High Meadows, however, has allowed me to embrace the “winding path” toward success that celebrates children for their unique abilities. In our second and third grade classroom, success is measured by the individual child. We guide and encourage our students to develop their own learning interests, set their own goals, and create their own work habits. Trying something new, volunteering in a group discussion, or increasing one’s writing stamina are all reasons to celebrate “success” in our classroom.
Recently, to encourage interpersonal skills among our students, we challenged the class with a team building exercise called “Acid River.” The goal of the exercise was to have the whole class cross the “river” in small, cohesive units. Teams were given one block per person and instructed to proceed across without falling in. Individuals could only stand on the block they had received except when moving themselves forward. The task presented both physical and mental challenges as they worked collectively to move their peers along. After the activity, we debriefed our experiences as a class, which led us to an organic conversation defining “success.” One group felt successful when their team was able to make it across the entire river without falling in. Another team looked at their success as having all group members make it onto their assigned blocks. A third team understood their success as having made it more than halfway across the river before having to turn back. Ultimately, our students came to the conclusion that success is “accomplishing something you have never done before, having fun, and doing your best.”