How to discern a “fit and fun” classroom

faludy_gyorgyWith the events in Egypt unrolling these past days, my mind has been on them and also on the wider question, what makes a “liveable” country?

I took down from my bookshelf, a treasured book, Notes from the Rainforest, by Gyorgy Faludy. Gyorgy is/was a mind like no other. He had traveled and lived all over the world and on one small page, he listed his 10 requirements for a country. If it didn’t have at least 5 of them, he recommended running for the nearest border.

I’ve been honored to visit a lot of classrooms. And I think, the same question is valid for a classroom, as for a country. So I thought it would be interesting to list Gyorgy’s points and then write up a similar dictum for that of a classroom. Be prepared – some of my own statements are meant to challenge and be extreme. Here we go….  What others could you add?

1. Freedom to leave without an exit visa or baggage search is assumed.

1a. Classrooms have children there that want to be there. If they don’t, they are free to leave and do something else. What a child didn’t achieve in one class IS NOT counted against them in the next.

2. Faces of the population are generally cheerful.

2a. Students are relaxed and smile a lot. They are free to laugh and show their emotions.

3. Public rudeness is rare.

3a. Students respect their classmates and address them in a polite fashion.

4. Fairly elaborate manners are expected of everyone after the age of seven.

4a. Students have been taught how to behave in the classroom. There are routines and expectations.

5. Public libraries are uncensored, well-stocked, and much-used.

5a. The class has lots of books (a mini library), materials, decoration – all accessible for student learning and borrowing.

6. Little or no hunger or squalor is evident and the accumulation of wealth is not generally thought of as the Meaning of Life.

6a. All students have access to nutritious food. Poverty is not a barrier to learning at school. The classroom has no obvious social pecking order.

7. Violence is rare and , among the police, severely forbidden.

7a. Students are not punished corporally nor with emotion. All forms of violence are not tolerated (by students or teachers) and disqualify a person from the class.   Violence by teachers, strictly forbidden.

8. A general attitude of “live and let live” is seen.

8a. The classroom is not driven by “results”. It does what it can one day and that is enough. There is no “guilt” of not keeping up.

9. No political prisoners are taken.

9a. The classroom is void of religious, political and social indoctrination. It is a place of tolerance of ideas and where ideas are thought about and challenged, not gulped down.

10. Few are destitute and those are charitably treated.

10a. The disabled (learning / mental / physical) are a part of the classroom (for part of the day) and are seen as equals in all ways.

Faludy, Gyorgy., Notes from the rainforest.
1988, Hounslow Press, Willowdale, Canada.
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