Last Wednesday I went into St. Andrew's as usual, excited for a morning that was going to be different from a normal day at school. P5W had been working on projects about Ancient Roman lifestyles and culture. They had had three weeks to create a mini research project about an aspect of Ancient Rome that they were particularly interested in, and create a visual to complement their posters. The students got to choose their own topics because my CT really tries to give her students as much autonomy as possible within their classroom. However, many of the students ended up picking similar topics; girls chose clothes/fashion and boys typically picked something to do with gladiators or the army. One girl did food and made fried cheese and honey balls, which apparently were part of the cuisine of wealthy Romans! The entire morning was spent having other classrooms come in and learn about the projects, and then we improvised chariot races and gladiator matches in the classroom! Additionally, each of the students was assigned a role within Roman society (patrician, citizen, freed-person, or slave) in order to facilitate groups for the various activities.
I was very impressed with how the fifth graders handled being labeled as a "patrician" or a "slave". Throughout the day, the "slaves" had to be last for the activities, or sit on the floor as opposed to on the desks or in a chair. However, none of them complained about their lower status, and instead jokingly offered their assistance to the patricians in the classroom. I feel that this scenario would never happen in America, where the children assigned to be slaves would complain and whine about not being first all the time. I also have reason to believe that some American parents would have something to say about their child being labeled a "slave".
This difference seems to come from the fact that in this particular classroom, my CT emphasizes the fact that everyone in the room is an equal part of the classroom and how it operates. There is a strong focus on learning how is best for each child, as well as tailoring units and themes to what this group of students wants to learn. In many American schools, especially public schools, there is too much of a focus on grades and testing to allow for the promotion of the joy of learning.
We had this week off from prac because St. Andrew's had their fall term break, but I'm looking forward to going back next week!