Summer camp – so many possibilities, so many activities to choose from, so many games to play, so many arts and crafts to do, and so many, many things to learn!
Best of all? No grades!
Upon reading this week’s “ungraded classroom” piece, my mind immediately wandered back to the years I spent as both a camper and counselor at Camp Stonybrook in central Ohio. I learned a lot of neat skills – everything from tie-dyeing T-shirts (not so useful, although I still do it on occasion even at 31 years old) to tree identification (more useful than tie-dye) to making minor repairs to my bicycle (totally useful for getting around Blacksburg). More than that, I learned intangible skills like cooperation, assertiveness and confidence.
Best of all, I learned those skills more completely because I was able to do so without fear of failure. Without a grade, I learned it was okay to take bigger risks and that someone besides myself (usually a counselor) knew what was going on, so I had someone I could go to for guidance when I needed it. I fully immersed myself in the learning because it did not feel like learning, it felt like fun!
Moving into the classroom setting, I think learning could be done in much the same way. If an 8-year-old can become fully immersed in a subject, then why not an 18-year-old? I believe learning should be fun and that I should play the part of a counselor rather than an instructor. I want my students to play with ideas, challenge them (and me, and their peers) and make those ideas their own.
This also leads into the imagination piece we read. If students are ungraded, they have more room to imagine new possibilities without fear of being wrong. The part in the imagination piece about doing the least amount of work for the ‘A’ resonated with me. I have been there. I have had semesters where I am busy, and all I want is to do what I have to do to get the ‘A.’ Usually in those classes I never feel like I’ve earned the ‘A’ or even learned very much, but I did the required work so I got the ‘A.’
Summer camp is where I learned.
So the real question is: how can I make my classroom more like summer camp?