“Look at this mess!” tends to be my general exclamation as I walk through each room of my house on a weekend morning. The mess is there on weekdays too, but there’s no time to notice it as I’m trying to get three kids off to school. Today felt particularly overwhelming as I went from this:
And all before 8 am.
But before I threw up my hands in disgust and swiped everything into a trash bag, I stopped. I took some breaths. I smiled.
And then I thought, Yes, look at this wonderful wonderful mess.
We tend to think of mess as a bad thing, especially when it comes to the classroom. Many of us, if we are honest, feel much more relaxed when our students are sitting in their seats quietly working all by themselves. These times of peace and independence are important, to be sure. But we also know that the 21st century learner needs to discuss, to tinker with ideas, to spread out and make a mess once in a while.
When we think of today’s classroom, it is less and less of a teacher standing up front disseminating information. Students need an environment that fosters the four C’s of 21st Century learning:
4. Critical Thinking
What does this look like? Well, it’s not neat and tidy. Students are satisfying their curiosity in a variety of ways, whether it be online research, experimentation, or a simple discussion of ideas. There are notebooks, devices, tools, art supplies. And, oh yes, there’s going to be some noise. Sorry. The 21st Century classroom isn’t quiet.
Yesterday, we talked about risk. And to many teachers, all of this noise and mess feels like a big risk. We suggest that you start small by carving out a small time every day or once a week for students to self-select projects. We plan to post quite a bit about this topic, so we hope that you’ll come back to learn with us.
For now, I’m embracing the messiness that comes with three kids who are makers. There will be time for clean up and quiet later. Yes, I’m saying: It’s okay. Make a mess.
For all of today’s Slice of Life stories head over to Two Writing Teachers.
~ Jen and Darla