Celebrating: Doing the Work

On Wednesday night, I came home exhausted and told my husband,
“This year is the worst. They don’t get it; it’s going to be a disaster.”

He looked at me and said, “You say that every year.”

At the moment it was funny, and it eased my worries. It’s good to have a witness to your worries. Someone to hold you up and keep you accountable. To your comments, your actions, your beliefs.

I suppose it’s human nature to forget the bad stuff. Replace the painful and messy chapters of our existence with moments that glisten.  But if that is the case, if that is what we do, what does this say about how we approach learning. Can we, do we tolerate the discomfort necessary to learn?

Learning isn’t easy. It can feel like you’re fighting against the current, running backward, and just making a general mess of everything. The natural inclination could be to give up; stop and change course. Why, continue in something that seems to be accomplishing, best case scenario, nothing.

This week the fifth-grade class created a colonial village for their school to enjoy. THEY did it. The process of that creation was loud and disorganized. Students had difficulties. Working together is hard.  It looked bad: like they are just playing around and making a mess. And they were.

Consider the students who were to be the militia. Start by imagining the kids who chose this role. Now, picture a group of sixteen putting together three six-minute reenactments.  Watching this hot mess, I kept telling myself: this is the process; they need to do this.

I had doubts and to get through it, I held tight to my core belief: to learn, one must do. And that in the doing, there is a lot of approximating going on. And that approximating looks awful.

That belief got me through the weeks leading up to the day of the fair.

Nine a.m.: four classes of kindergarteners and six first grade classes entered the “village,” escorted by their fifth-grade guides. They “traveled” through each station where fifth-grade presenters explained, demonstrated and engaged students.

Watching this, no one could deny the learning, the ownership, and the pride.

Watching what came before this, many would have doubted the process.

It is hard to see the purpose in a playful mess.

To be able to allow this process of learning, I realize I must hold on to core beliefs that will sustain through the discord and disorganization. That will right my thinking in the midst of the stormy waters of learning and anchor me.

First and foremost, students must do the work.

To do the work, students must have demonstrations, models and lots of opportunities to try and try and try and fail and try again.

Students must be engaged in the work, so they have the energy to try and try and try and fail and keep trying.

To be engaged, students must have choice and latitude in what is considered successful.

Play is a part of learning.

Learning should have culminating performance-based practices that give tangible feedback and hold meaning for students.

For learning to exist outside of the classroom walls, learning must accommodate spaces bigger than the classroom.

This week I celebrate my students doing the work.

I celebrate purposeful play.

I celebrate their learning.

For more celebrations read here on Ruth Ayer’s Saturday Celebrate This Week.

celebrate link up

Throughout this post I have used phrases that are titles for two beautiful books that are on my desk right now: Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris’  Whose Doing the Work: How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More and Kristine Mraz’s  Purposeful Play: A Teacher’s Guide to Igniting Deep and Joyful Learning Across the Day.




15 thoughts on “Celebrating: Doing the Work

  1. Last year I remember visiting your class as they were preparing for the colonial days. You had doubts then, but when I asked later how it went, you spoke with such pride in the work accomplished. It takes a lot of faith to allow the students to succeed or possibly fail. There is learning in both.
    As I was reading your words here, I heard a message ding. It was your comment to my post, thank you for your words. 🙂

  2. Such a wise post, Julieanne – to learn one must do, and that means we need to take a step back. Most often, the hot mess we envision turns out to be a celebration instead … of the children, and of placing faith in their ability to learn and to do.

  3. You set the bar high and getting there is tough and messy and the Ahh’s are the part of this process you need to freeze!.
    And now 🍷

  4. There’s so much good stuff in this post! I connected with this, “It’s good to have a witness to your worries. Someone to hold you up and keep you accountable.” I love that your husband hears you and reminds you of all of these things. As always, I’m amazing & impressed with the learning your students are doing with your guidance. WOW!

  5. I had a conversation with another teacher at a graduation party earlier today. We were talking about the things they will remember. This…they will remember!

  6. Such reassuring wisdom here. I am holding on to this ” I had doubts and to get through it, I held tight to my core belief: to learn, one must do. And that in the doing, there is a lot of approximating going on. And that approximating looks awful.”

  7. Learning is messy work and as teachers, when we allow that messiness, amazing things can happen. I love the colonial village your students created! They certainly took ownership of their learning!

  8. I have been exactly where you are, in the trenches with the mess. I’ve also been on the other side, with pride in seeing the accomplishments. Students will make a mess and pull it all together when they have a coach like you for their team. They will remember this day for a long time.

  9. I wonder how many of your students look back on this year as one of their favorite years due to the work that they do themselves – the reading, the writing, the colonial re-enactment – all because of the work that they were ABLE to do because of your instruction. There’s so much power in learning and your students are able to reap those benefits NOW!!! (and yes, the process is messy!)

  10. Julianne, I read this post and realize how hard it is to be a teacher. Their are so many varied aspects to the profession. Your students are truly fortunate to have a teacher who examines teaching and learning from so many angles and I am glad you have such a good husband to help you over the rough spots.

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