Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Building bridges

Important insight gained from the PE Dept's staff sharing on the low-elements team-building facilities today: although safety is the #1 priority in team-building activities, the participants also share in the responsibility of keeping themselves and their fellow participants safe. By personally experiencing some element of danger, as a group they develop a sense of concern and look out for each other, especially when it is made clear to them that success is team-dependent and cannot be accomplished solo.

A case in point is the 'river crossing' activity in which a series of blocks are set in a pattern on the ground between crossing points. A team uses the blocks as supports for a bridge they build with a limited number of planks to get from the starting point to the ending point on the opposite side. It would be so much safer if the play area was bulldozed flat, but the ground is left in its natural state with grass and soil, bumps and dips, making the traverse unsteady and the risk of falling off is quite real. So apart from just focusing on the goal of getting from point A to point B, the participants are also figuring out how to utilize their limited resources most effectively; how to stabilize the bridge while they are building it; and how to support each other to avoid falling into the 'river' until all are safely across to the other side.

This kind of affective learning the kids are getting from the PE Dept needs to continue in the classroom. We academics tend to focus on getting our kids from exam to exam and all the work we do is intended to bulldoze the way smooth for them. Content packages; skills packages; parent support network; remedial classes; personal consultations... with every need catered to, there is no incentive to reach out to their fellow learners and support each other through their journey. So instead of teaching three or four classes a year we each have effectively taken on the responsibility of teaching 70-90 individual students per year -- and we wonder why the burnout rate in the education industry is so high.

At this level of study, success is a team game. Individual effort is important, of course, but our job isn't just to groom a handful of brilliant scholars but to work on raising levels for the entire cohort. That means the kids themselves must bear the responsibility of helping one another because the individual teacher alone cannot possibly build the bridge AND carry the entire lot of kids kicking and screaming across from point A to point B.

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