Snapshot of a provocation

Can we maintain relationships with people who don’t share our values?

Our plucky, young Grade 1/2 students are currently inquiring into the central idea, Understanding perspectives helps people manage relationships.

It’s profound stuff! Students are learning how to understand others on a deeper level, and learn why people may behave in different ways. What’s important to one person may not be important to another, but we can still maintain relationships- or decide to end them- when we disagree. Values, perspective, conflict resolution, communication, respect, and self-management are just some of the concepts and skills students are exploring.

As a provocation to reinvigorate the students’ interest towards the end of the unit, the teacher and I hatched an evil plan- we agreed to have a loud argument in front of the students!

After I stormed out of the classroom in a huff, the magic happened- most of the students were very concerned after seeing our argument and looked sad, but said nothing.  One student finally asked what happened.  The teacher explained that she didn’t do her homework because she didn’t think it was important, and now I was mad at her because it was part of a project all the teachers were working on together.

The students concluded that I was mad because I thought the homework was important, but the teacher did not.  The teacher then explained that not only am I her boss, but I’m a good friend as well- it’s complicated! The teacher said that, even though our friendship might be affected by this problem, we still need to maintain our professional relationship as we work together everyday.

Students then offered suggestions on how to move forward:

– ”You can say I’m sorry.”  The teacher replied, “But I already said I’m sorry, and she just walked away, so…..…”

– ”Do your homework now and we can help each other and do things by ourselves in the classroom.”

– ”Give her the homework when it’s finished and say I’m sorry again.”

– Some students started singing a cooperation song!

The teacher thanked the students for their ideas, and completed her ‘homework’ while the students worked independently. After an hour or so, I returned to the classroom- with every single student watching me closely- to collect the homework and ask the teacher to, in future, let me know if she doesn’t want to complete a task or if she thinks something isn’t important so we can sort it out.

We left it at that, and then revealed our plan to the students. Some were confused, some laughed, and some claimed they knew it was a trick all along- the teacher has done other controversial provocations in the past so the students might be on to her!

For now, the students’ interest in the unit has been piqued once again, and they have a starting point for a new line of inquiry- how differences in perspective can affect relationships.

EPILOGUE: the students were not aware of the central idea throughout this unit, the teacher instead focused on guiding students through the lines of inquiry.  At the end of the unit, the students were invited to make their own generalisations based on their inquiries and the concepts they explored. Here are some of the students’ generalisations…….

– We can be friends even if we don’t value the same things.

– We can still be friends even if we don’t think the same things are important.

– We need to communicate to solve problems together.

– We need to communicate in relationships.

– We don’t always have to be friends with someone.

Not bad for six year olds! 🙂