Every so often Stephen Heppell posts something about ‘shoeless learning’. This weekend it was a photograph which I retweeted and, as usually happens, it was met with reactions from those inspired by the idea to those thinking it was a joke.
I have blogged, and spoken, before about the inspiring group of boys in my last class who liked to disappear off into the outdoor quad to produce their videos. After the success of their sentence writing videos they took every opportunity to ask me if they could go to ‘the big house’ to work.
Whenever it was appropriate, I let them and thought little of it. However, when it came time to prepare for their KidsMeet presentation, I went to sit with them in the big house to talk about it- largely because there were no other spaces free for us to have a chat.
The house is a triangular structure of scaffolding poles, behind a garden shed, on which various plants have grown creating a solid cover. As I crouched down and walked into the house I was suddenly struck by how different it felt. The low sloping roof, the dark and cool inside, the rough concrete bench; the feel of this place was so different to the crowded classroom. This feeling was so strong, I am not sure that the boys learning videos would have taken the turn they did if they had not used this place- the feel of the videos as happening in both a physical and intellectual space which they own is so intrinsic to their power.
I think as a teacher I am often guilty of planning learning experiences in a very intellectual way. I think about the thinking that children will go through, how they could move through concepts and be encouraged to discover ideas. What I mostly don’t think about is what learning feels like.
How learning feels may seem secondary to the actual content, but until you enter the big house, or spend a lesson with your shoes off, it is hard to imagine how it can change the whole quality of the experience and even take it in totally different directions. Surely something worth harnessing?