Let me just start off by saying The Walking Classroom is amazing . . . just amazing. It is such an innovative way to incorporate physical health and well being with curriculum and allows another way to reach and engage student learners.
When I initially dreamed about TWC, I thought of “B” … that one student I have who has a whole team of teachers, administrators, counselors, and doctors who service “B”. I thought that The Walking Classroom was going to be “the perfect solution” to help “B” navigate the plethora of issues that “B” deals with daily. I envisioned “B” viewing the informative powerpoint at the edge of the seat, anxious to get outside. I saw “B” excited and smiling on our first walk (with no sound). In my head, the day that we took that first walk listening to the podcast, exerting physical energy, I saw “B” coming back to class looking forward to going out and trying it again. Let’s just say that wasn’t exactly how it played out in reality!
For the rest of my 24 students, that is a pretty exact representation of how it all started. But not for “B.” Oh my, the tears, complaining, and non-compliance that followed was enough to make me want to throw in the towel, but I couldn’t. The rest of my class loved TWC. I couldn’t abandon a program that met so many of my instructional philosophies as a teacher, so I pressed on.
I didn’t push “B.” For weeks, “B” joined us on the walk with no headphones and no walk-it. “B” sat by the water fountain and pulled grass. “B” complained. “B” whined. We still walked. I was fortunate that we walked on our playground, which was a safe space so that the water fountain (and “B”!) were always in my line of sight.
My class was amazing! Using the resources that TWC provided, my class adopted the routine quickly, and in no time, they were able to walk with no reminders from me. I kept “B” in the loop with all of TWC expectations, so “B” knew what we were doing, but I didn’t push “B” to walk.
Finally the day came. As the class prepared their WalkKits, “B” grabbed the headphones and got in line. I was met with a lot of surprised looks from my class, but no one said anything. We proceeded to the field and started our walk. My teacher ego was soaring! I had done it! “B” was walking with us! And in line! Yeah, that lasted five minutes, and then “B” was over it.
Back to the water fountain “B” went. I was crushed. How did I get this so wrong? I thought that TWC would be perfect for “B”. Another few weeks passed until one day “B” tried walking again, but “B” didn’t want to walk in a line. I know that was not what I envisioned, but after setting some parameters, we agreed that as long as “B” was listening to the correct podcast, and in my line of sight, “B” could choose the path. And you know what? “B” walked for the whole fifteen-minute podcast.
I realized that “B” just needed more time to adjust to this new routine. It still isn’t always perfect, and some walks are better than others, but on those days when “B” is comfortable and happy, I know that it is right. This experience has tested me as an educator, but I believe that TWC is totally worth implementing.
My biggest take-away is that even with the best laid plans, adjustments need to be made. Even though “B” doesn’t go on a “typical” walk, “B” is still there, participating in “B’s” own way. I call that a huge victory for “B” (and for me!). I have learned that I need to embrace all of my students’ differences in order to make sure that each of their experiences is perfect for them!
4th Grade Teacher