Visiting a classroom is always a privilege. I have had that privilege many times on both sides of the Tasman over the years. I never cease to get a real buzz out of seeing teachers and learners in action.
It was no different when I visited classrooms at Tokoroa North School. It was one year ago on the second to last day of the first term in 2016. The teachers who volunteered to invite me into their classroom did not do deviate from their planned lessons. These were not show lessons for someone to view. They were regular lessons fitting into current curriculum frameworks.
Here is a school where the academic achievements of the students show a good outcomes and where a high percentage of students are achieving at, or above standard. It is also a school where there have been no stand downs, suspensions or exclusions for more than sixteen years.
In the new entrant classroom a small group of children were playing a game in the courtyard outside the classroom that involved chanting a rhyme and swinging a scarf. The children had created this game themselves. Others within the classroom were making choices about activities to complete. It was a calm, engaged, and productive classroom. This was a feature in every classroom I visited.
Another classroom again demonstrated the free choice of activities related to literacy development. A variety of activities included sorting, cloze activities, fishing for sounds engaged the learners in meaningful activities.
The evidence of Te Reo throughout the school was another feature. A sense of connection with the language and culture in a school where up to 50% are Maori, is important.
In yet another classroom the children had recently been on camp. They were using Glasser’s Basic Needs as a way to evaluate the experience. A significant amount of the instruction this classroom was in Te Reo. Goal setting was another feature of the classrooms I visited
High levels of understanding were evident. Using the strategy ‘turn to your partner’ to check for understanding of a text, these students connected with each other to explain their understanding of the text.
The last class visited had the whole room turned over to bunkers to heighten the awareness of the experiences of the soldiers in ANZAC cove. They had brought an array of blankets, duvet covers, and rugs from home to create individual bunkers. The children had tasks to complete while in the bunker and needed to ‘keep their heads low’ as they moved around the room. The message of the hardship for the soldiers was emphasised in this meaningful learning experience
In each classroom the influence of William Glasser’s Choice Theory, the guiding philosophy in the school, was evident. Children were connecting with each other and with the teacher in positive ways. So many of the classroom were providing a choice of activities and movement around the room to take advantage of what was being offered.
There was strong evidence of classroom activities that provided opportunities for all Glasser’s Basic Needs to be met. Children felt safe, they had choices, they had success and in many they were connecting in significant ways. The element of fun was also evident.
The teachers had a picture of how they wanted their classroom to feel like and sound like. The calm and productive classrooms were a real pleasure to be in. Students appeared not to notice a visitor to the room, a real sign they are in a trusting and safe environment in this school that does do things somewhat differently.
Basic Instructor with William Glasser International, President of William Glasser Institute-New Zealand.