Toward the end of the road trip I asked my kids what they’d liked best. They didn’t agree on most things; my six year old son told me he liked kayaking and swimming; my nine year old daughter liked seeing her cousins and visiting Los Padres National Forest, but they both had one surprise (to me anyway) in common on their lists: breakfast.
When pressed, it wasn’t the easy access to bagels or free flowing juice that had them in agreement. It wasn’t eating in different breakfast room every couple of days, all filled with families loading their plates with carbs and half listening to Good Morning America. What put breakfast on the top five list for both kids was the same thing: making waffles. It took my wife to explain to me why. “Bjorn,” she said, “It’s because they get to make them themselves.”
As an educator I should have picked up on that right away. It’s not that my kids don’t like butter and syrup, but they loved filling the batter cup, pouring onto a hot griddle, flipping the mechanism upside down, and watching the timer tick down.
It’s the same operation we see in great classrooms, students doing more than passively loading their intellectual plates with education’s equivalent to carbohydrates. Students want to do, to actively participate in their own learning. They need teachers to avoid getting burned by the griddle and know how much batter to begin with, and at the end of the process they want to show these adults they respect the golden waffle they’ve produced.
Not every day in every classroom can be filled with big events like building a robot or acting out a dramatization of The Outsiders, but students can be involved in creating their own education, and when they are it elevates meaning, supports relevancy, and pushes up rigor.
As a principal I want to work with my students to help them see how they can actively participate in making their school they place they want it to be. Just as they roll up their sleeves and engage meaningfully in classes, I want them to pour the metaphorical batter, flip the waffle maker, and end up with something golden.