Fearless Classroom

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I listened to a podcast from BAM! Radio Broadcast called “Creating a Fearless Classroom in Three Easy Steps.”  The podcast address the issue of how teachers are fearful of doing something creative with their class because of failure or judgment.  The podcast compares the issue to children who want to do a project or participate in something but are afraid of what their friends and peers will think of them.  This is a common concern for both teachers and children.  They want to fit in. They want to be accepted.  Educators want to encourage their students to be themselves and be creative in their own ways.  Yet, they also need to do the same.  How do create a fearless classroom?  Joli Barker is interviewed in the podcast and she gives three steps to help children become fearless.

Joli Barker says there are three core components of a “fearless classroom.”

  1. Students approach their learning fearlessly.  Students are afraid to take academic risks.  They want to get the problem or answer right.  Teachers can help combat this by asking students to approach problems from different angles.  Teachers need to allow students to work with others and bounce ideas off of each other.
  2. Teachers need to be fearless in how they approach their classrooms.  They need to give up control and take risks with students.  Teachers need to model fearlessness.  We need to model that we will make mistakes, and that we can correct it.  Model to children not worry about what others think!
  3. Teachers should never use fear tactics in their classroom management strategies.  According the podcast, research says fear releases chemicals in the brain that block the learning process.  Teachers shouldn’t say things like, “If you don’t do this, then you won’t get recess.” or, “If you don’t complete this assignment, then you won’t pass the 3rd grade.”  Teachers need to maintain a positive classroom environment.

Jolie created a “fearless” global cooperative project where her students started a story and she sent it across the globe to a friend for other students to contribute.  Students wanted a purpose behind their writing.  Her students wanted the topic to be “what breaks the hearts of their friends around the world.”  Their writing became much more meaningful.  They worked with 5 other countries.  Each country presented their problems and also gave solutions to the other problems from their cultural perspective.  The problems were common around the world including hunger, poverty, and bullying.  It was really insightful for the class to see how other cultures would handle their problems.  In the end, they have a globally created story.

Her students weren’t satisfied ending the project with just the story.  They wanted to share the story and insights with other children.  They thought that creating a game would be the best way to reach other kids.  Her students created Mine Craft games that were fun for children to play, but also taught coping strategies for some of the problems people deal with.  Jodi had no idea how to code a Mine Craft game.  But, her fear of starting that project didn’t stop her from allowing her children to try it!

The message to the listeners on this podcast is that teachers need to be fearless like Joli!  We need to tackle tough issues, try new technologies, and know that it’s okay to fail.

This podcast was only 11 minutes and so insightful! I definitely need to listen to more of these to get more teaching tips 🙂

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I would definitely consider podcasts for professional learning in the future.  In some of my undergrad courses at Virginia Tech, I had to listen to podcasts instead of going to class.  I loved it!  I could listen to the podcast at the gym, while driving, or while relaxing at home.  Podcasts add so much flexibility to learning.  I think an occasional short podcast at the elementary age would even spice up learning.  It also seems like a great thing to leave substitute teachers if you can plan ahead for days you’ll be out.  Then, you can ensure the information in the lesson is accurate and the substitute can just facilitate an activity.  I definitely think more and more educators will be using podcasts so that they can use class time for more creative and hands-on learning projects.  I’m sold on the idea!

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2 thoughts on “Fearless Classroom

  1. Hi Megan- I really enjoyed your discussion of the podcast you listened to. I totally agree that fear can hold both teachers and students back from doing new and creative things in the classroom. The project that Joli had her students do seemed awesome and it would have been a shame if they had missed out on that amazing learning opportunity simply because they were afraid to try something new. It really made me think about how I will try to have a “fearless classroom” when I graduate. I also agree that podcasts can be a great learning tool, and love the idea of leaving it for a substitute!

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