As a former high school teacher, I had the pleasure of teaching all different levels of students in my Social Studies, English and Dance classes. I had the token "work my butt off so I can go to University and get a bazillion degrees" students, and I had classes full of "I'm only gracing you with my presence today because I had to come to school to see my boyfriend/girlfriend" teenagers.
Obviously, both of these groups of students were very different, which led to a lot of professional and personal growth for me. I had different approaches, different teaching styles, different structures, activities, etc. to be able to give each unique learner the best learning experience that I felt I could. The ironic part? Usually an activity that I designed with one group of students in mind, would be just as effective, or even more so, with the complete opposite population.
One such event stands out in my mind. While in the middle of my 20-4/30-4 class one day (for those not familiar with the Alberta curriculum, these are Grade 11 and 12 students that generally struggle with academics for a variety of reasons), I realized that I had lost them. Figuratively, not literally. We've all had that feeling. I had spent hours coming up with what I thought was the world's best lesson, full of smoke and fireworks, tons of individual choice, all centered around a topic that I thought would captivate even the most apathetic child. Wrong. I had a class full of restless, antsy and increasingly hostile learners.
I decided that what they needed most was to let off some steam. Being that it was a beautiful fall day, we heading out to the football field and I made up some lame definition based game of tag to get them running and still practicing basic concepts that we were discussing. Miraculously, it worked. They loved being able to break up the monotony of being in a classroom filled with overhead lights! So I made it my mission to find a way to incorporate some sort of walking or other exercise into many of my future 20-4/30-4 classes.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and enter my 30-1 classroom. (These are the 'work hard, future scholar' types). It was another beautiful fall day, and while in the middle of a particularly grueling intellectual discussion, one student looked out my beautiful, large windows (lucky, I know), and suggested that we move class outside. I hesitated, because doing so felt so...non-academic...but I relented. Our discussion picked up once outside, but instead of plugging through the task for the remaining 60 minutes of class, we took a 5 minute break to play an impromptu game of football. And you know what? They were completely reenergized at the end of it, and eager to complete the group activity that was previously looking like a daunting task.
It was at that moment that I realized 2 things: 1.) Sometimes we forget that our most academic students are in need of the "softer" activities often left for the students whom we're just trying to get through class with without a major incident. I feel that I had failed my academic driven students for not realizing that they deserve breaks just as much as the students who are a bit more vocal about it. And 2.) Exercise can be an amazing catalyst to learning.
Picture taken from http://missoulian.com/lifestyles/health-med-fit/wyo-teacher-gets-students-active-with-stationary-bikes-in-class/article_228d995e-251e-11e1-a9c4-0019bb2963f4.html
What reminded me of this lesson that I learned approximately 5 years ago? An article that I read last month regarding a teacher that has used grant money to purchase staionary bikes for his classroom. Genius! Read his story here.
I'm sure someone with more of a biology background than I can explain why this phenomenon works, but the point is, it does work.
So my question to you: in the age of technology that increasingly does work for us, how do you balance that with the need for us to burn off steam sometimes? Have you implemented an exercise program (either informal or formal) in your classroom? I'd love to hear your thoughts and stories!