Phew, we made it! Through Kid Classroom Week, that is.
So, last week, I decided to watch a bit of the show Kid Nation with the Orange Banders because why not? The show is pretty ridiculous at times, but it’s opened the door to many interesting ethical discussions (on (un)reality, law and order, religion, leadership, just to name a few topics), the kids are really engaged (with the 15 minutes we watch at a time), and it’s an interesting way to talk about taking on responsibility, internal/external motivation, and the value of input from experienced and invested adults.
Mid-week last week, I let the kiddos know that I’d hand over the agenda-writing reigns to them at the beginning of this week. We spend a few minutes at a time throughout the rest of the week discussing the constraints on their power, my role during the week, and their goal for what they’d need to accomplish by the end of the week. Wowee were they excited! After some thoughtful discussions, we decided that they’d need to get their individual body parts done by the end of the week, they had to go to park and lunch everyday, they would have to go to our weekly gameshare with the Red Band on Thursday, and we’d still have Morning Meeting with me every morning as a way to check in and hear any announcements. We’d have a different agenda writer each day, with each kiddo only having one chance to be in charge, and we’d vote at the end of the day each day for the next day’s Agenda Writer. Kiddos wrote in their reflection journals about what they’d put on the agenda if they got to be the leader for a day.
Throughout, we talked about leadership qualities. We landed on a list of qualities that is heavy on empathy, and light on authoritarianism. The kiddos thought it would be most important for their daily leader to listen to their bandmates, be kind, fun and silly, solve problems creatively, and most importantly, be helpful. Who could ask for more!
This past Monday morning, the kiddos got into pairs to hear about their partner’s plan for a day in the life of the Orange Band. Then, they introduced their partner to the rest of the group, explaining the agenda they’d propose. Each plan was pretty great, some surprising, and some delightfully predictable. Most of all, each plan truly reflected the personality of the kiddo proposing it. And then we voted! Here’s how it played out:
Now, as much as I implored that the ballots were TOP SECRET, and for each kiddo to vote for the plan they liked the best, I know there was a lot of politics involved in who voted for who–which is why I sent kiddos to opposite corners of the school to vote, and hid the ballots afterward. In the end, the voting process feels bittersweet, because I know that silent alliances were formed, promises were made, promises were broken. I know this because I saw the ballots at the end of each day, and because I know each of these kiddos so well. At the end of the day, all but one kiddo took the chance and put their name on the ballot, which took a lot of bravery. One of the goals here was to encourage this kind of emotional bravery, and give them a positive first experience of what can happen when we make ourselves vulnerable by proposing an idea and putting it in the hands of others.
Was this experiment a success? In a few ways, I think so. Kiddos considered the trust they put in each other, and the trust they put in me. They prioritized play time, sometimes at the cost of project work time. They succeeded and failed at listening to each other, and saw real consequences to their choices. They did not all finish their body parts by the end of the week. I think this week they genuinely experienced what happens when they listen to each other and work hard, and that’s all I could really expect.