Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Exam Moments

I have had an amazing last week of school. It is incredible to sit back and realise what these wonderful children have learnt. I decided to give the children 'exams' at the end of this term. This was just to practice exam writing and to show them that exams are not scary; not for grading. We did the whole set up with getting pencils ready, drinking beforehand etc. They were so excited that they nagged me for days before about when it would be finally time for their exams. These children range from 6 - 9 years so I had prepared exams based on their levels. On the day of the exam, I had four 5 and a half-year-olds also beg for an exam so I had to quickly write one for them as well. They were so enthusiastic. I had offered that they could go spend time in the pre-primary and do 'easy' work but they were so keen for the exam, I had to give them a chance. The exam went amazingly well. The children were all so well behaved and eager to do their best. They also did incredibly well and achieved good marks (not the point but still good to see). After the exam, they were all so proud and eager to share their experience. The next morning when they arrived at school, they ALL asked me for another exam. It sounds crazy but it's true. They are so excited about learning that even exams are fun. What amazing kids.

I love those books with funny exam answers so I have to share a few of my favourites from these exams:

Question: Draw a food chain - Answer: He drew all different food holding hands in a chain
5-year-old boy

Question: How many shapes are there - Answer: Lots
7-year-old girl

Question: Write 'th' words - Answer: think, that, thousand - I loved this moment in the exam - this six-year-old boy was trying to remember his 'th' phonogram words and suddenly I saw his face light up. He looked around at me and quickly went back to his paper - I knew something was up so I went over to check his work, He looked up at me, looked down at his paper, looked up at the poster we have on the wall of the decimal system and then quickly back at me. He had copied the word thousand from the poster. I know a lot of teachers would correct this as a cheat but I just admired his innovative thinking. He sat looking at me with a guilty grin, waiting for the hammer to fall, but I just smiled and walked away. The fact that he could find a 'th' word in a big poster in the classroom was enough for me, especially as he is only six. We encourage the children to think for themselves, I will not discourage them when they do so.

The whole point of the exam was to realise that exams are not scary, they are a life skill: the children all achieved that and I am so proud of them.

Friday, 17 June 2016

We all have those moments, when it feels like you are banging your head against a concrete wall full of metal spikes. When it doesn't seem to matter how many times you speak, there is no one out there to listen.
This is true in everyday life but especially in the classroom. We all have those moments when we wonder where we have gone wrong and why these sweet children have suddenly turned into deaf monsters? I had this experience this week. It is nearly the end of term and we have had a very rainy miserable week. The children were fed up being indoors and I was fed up with having to talk ten times. It was a moment when it felt like there has been a mass memory wipe of all the rules and beautiful routines being established. Where has all the Montessori magic of an ordered class gone? I remember visiting a Montessori school when I was first qualified and it resembled this chaos. There were children choosing the simplest work or just wondering around with no visible purpose, the noise level was headache inducing and the classroom just looked a mess. I remember thinking 'how can this be a Montessori class with normalised children and an ordered environment?' What I didn't realise at the time, when I judged the school far too harshly in my mind, was that life happens. Montessori has ideals that we strive for but every classroom in the world has days like mine. I stood amongst the chaos in my class and took a deep breath and instead of blaming myself, I decided to forgive myself. These are young children and it is okay to have days like this sometimes. So instead of trying to force these full of unused energy bouncing beans to sit and work; I asked everyone who wanted to use some energy to stand up. I put my CD player on and we danced for about twenty minutes. Did this help our math lesson plan or teach us a new grammar symbol? No. Did it help the sanity of everyone involved, I think so. I think we need moments like this. We need to get over ourselves and our perfect ideals. We are not perfect and neither is life. Some moments we just have to go with the flow and be happy in our imperfection.