I followed his astounded gaze back to the high window ledge. The pod had burst wide open into a cumulous, pulsating mass. The slight breeze from the other window tickled the fluff, coaxing bits of down into the air. Suddenly the room was clouded with milkweed down.
Then something happened, something that would happen again and again over my six years with my class, something of gigantic importance, yet imperceptible…. It was a simple, silent shift in the manner of the class prompted by a decision on my part to step back and allow the children to lead the way. I made no pronouncement. My turning the reins over to the class was a silent passing of leadership.
The transformation was like the sudden flight of the milkweed parasols. One moment we were snug in the pod of our classroom, sitting in chairs at little desks, bound together by rules, by habits, by order and routine, and then, suddenly, and silently, after a nod from me, the children rose from their chairs. I smiled as the children appeared to float up in sync with the moving milkweed, as they stepped up onto their seats, some blowing gently at the white fluff, others holding out their hands as landing pads. For a minute that felt like an eternity, we moved wordlessly in slow motion awe, as if our energized silence would keep the downy fluff aloft.
There are some who think that each moment of every school day should be bound by rules and procedures and there are others who maintain that total freedom is best for the developing child. Myself, I prefer the dance we discovered that day and in all days to come, an improvised choreography of order and spontaneity.
A Gift of Wonder is the story of a six year journey of a teacher with her class. It explores the theme of supporting intrinsic motivation in students through true stories such as this one.
Written by Kim Allsup for and published by Growing Children ~ August 15, 2017.