06 Sep Slice of Life: Developing a Sense of Agency
Why does doing the dishes here feel so different from doing the dishes at home?
We ask this question each year we vacation in Canada. We visit friends who have cabins on the Georgian Bay. These cabins do not have electricity or running water. There are often 20 people visiting. There are a lot of dishes. At home, I would see that pile and dread the task at hand – even with a dishwasher. In Canada my disposition is completely different.
We begin by pumping the water into huge teakettles to boil. We then fill two tubs with boiling water – one for soapy water and one for clean water to rinse. Thick rubber gloves are used to protect our hands from the scalding water. Then the procedure begins.
Glasses first, then silverware is placed in the bottom of the soapy bin to soak, plates are next, followed by pots and pans. The silverware is scrubbed last. All is set out to dry overnight. The tubs are rinsed out, counters wiped down and gloves are hung on the clothesline to dry. All this is done by candlelight.
It takes longer. It is more work. It is a complete pleasure. There is something about slowing down, knowing the steps of the process and experiencing the results of your work that is so satisfying. It is simple, yet rewarding. The time is often spent thinking, reflecting or planning. When your hands know just what to do, our minds can take over with thought.
It makes me think about our classrooms. Do we set aside enough time to ensure our students know the systems, procedures and processes of our classrooms? Do they have time to understand and feel confident enough to derive pleasure from the work to be done? Do we have community jobs for our students to do? Do we rush through these jobs or do we give our students time to slow down and experience the results of their work? Do they have time to think, reflect and plan?
Being a member of a group or community is more than showing up – each member needs to contribute. When we contribute the culture of collaboration and cooperation is brought to life. We all need to have a sense of agency in order to learn and achieve goals. This sense of agency can begin with being a contributing member of a classroom community. Once students understand that if they act strategically they can accomplish their goals, then they can transfer this disposition to their learning.
How will you use these first weeks of school to create a community? How will your students contribute and a develop a sense of agency?