a visit to Opal – January 2015: Michelle’s story

Posted on: February 4th, 2015 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

The Gift of Time

 I consider myself so lucky to have been given the opportunity to visit Opal School.  What an amazing experience to see playful inquiry in action and spend three days reflecting, questioning and examining my own practice.  So many things connected, challenged and extended my thinking.  Although not a new idea, I was struck by the depth of thinking shared in the Opal 4 class (ages 9-11).   Listening to these students engage in discussions was nothing short of inspiring.  Not only were they actively listening and responding to each other in such a respectful manner, but their comments, connections and questions reflected a higher level of understanding of the content being discussed.  What was it that nurtured this kind of deep thinking?  As I reflected upon the how’s and why’s I kept coming back to the same thing and that was that this classroom was not rushed.  These students were given time to formulate their own ideas and then time to each share their questions, theories, and ideas.  Each morning we were there, the students were given an invitation to ponder upon as they arrived in the classroom.  One day it was a quote from a text to reflect upon in writing and the next day it was an invitation to sketch their mental images.  These opening activities gave the students time to reflect and formulate their ideas.  The class then met for their opening meeting.  The children sat in a circle and each shared.  Once again, these children were given time to listen and engage in meaningful discussions together in a safe and respectful community.   I believe the children were so engaged because they knew their thinking had a purpose and would be listened to.  I truly believe that each child has a different connection, perspective, or question to share that will enhance or challenge the thinking of a group.  Put simply, each child has a right to be heard and we need to slow down, be present and really listen.

photo 1 photo 2

This notion of time and thoughtfully building ideas together was in all of the classrooms at Opal.

Michelle Hikida

grades 2&3 teacher, Diefenbaker Elementary


*all photographs were taken at the Opal School with the Museum Centre for Learning at the Portland Children’s Museum, with permission to share here 

One Response

  1. Matt Karlsen says:

    Hi, Michelle –
    I think you’ve found a key idea: If we tell children their work has value but don’t give them the time they need to develop it and constantly rush them to incompletion, then we’re really telling them that doing is important but thinking is not. I wonder: How has this big idea shifted your practice?
    I hope to see you again at Opal School. Will you be back?