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Omada Teambuilding

Over the years I’ve found that something amazing and profound seems to happen when you connect yourself to one end of a 10mm rope, the other end to a stranger, and then climb 40+ feet up a tree.  How could it not?  Not only do you have to overcome any fear of heights you might have as you make a vertical ascent up a tree, but once you’re up the tree, you need to accomplish some feat involving balance, cables, and crossing an open void between earth and sky.  To top it all off, you have to trust that the person at the other end of the rope – the person you might have only known since that morning – will support you and hold you up in case you fall.

When I took my students to Omada Teambuilding in the first full week of school this year, there was an almost tangible moment during the day when the entire ethos of my classes shifted – from a group of individual students participating in my Adventure Co-op, to a community of students who were beginning to care and support each other.  It is because of this shift that I take my students here every year.  Although I know there are many effective tools and strategies to establish community within the classroom, I have found no better way to quickly and effectively create this community than by throwing my students into situations where they are forced to problem solve together and work together as a group to reach certain objectives – both on the ground and in the trees.

I’ve come to realize that allowing students to work together in an environment of supervised ‘safe’ risk provides some of the richest soil to cultivate trust and community within a classroom.  With support and encouragement from their peers, students are able to conquer fears and connect with each other in ways that are very difficult to duplicate in the classroom.  On top of this, as the teacher, I get to see sides of my students that may not be easily seen between the four walls of my classroom.   I see the leaders and those who get discouraged easily.  I see the encouragers and those who thrive on risk.  I see how students interact with each other in both positive and negative ways.  In short, it allows me to be a better teacher and helps create the community and trust needed to learn effectively.

There is something eerie about a silent classroom.

When I first started teaching, a silent classroom was like a pearl – rarely found and highly coveted.  I thought that if I had this pearl I would be a good teacher.  I thought that if all of my students were quiet, learning MUST be happening.  I thought wrong.

Over time a subtle unease crept in.  Were my students actually learning or were they playing the game?  Were they engaged or simply afraid of being told to stop talking?  When are teenagers ever quiet?  When is passion and engagement ever quiet?  And gradually, my idea of the ideal classroom began changing.  My desire for silence was replaced with the hope that my students would talk excitedly about what they were learning.  A silent classroom now makes me a little nervous – what is going on?  Why is everyone quiet?  What am I (or they) missing?  Although there are certainly times when my classroom is so quiet a mummy would get nervous (and I know learning is happening) – it is no longer sought after.  What I thought was a pearl was only a clump of dirt.  I’ve washed my hands of it.

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