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Asleep on the Job
By guest editor Brenda Dyck


V of E

Her yearly Grade-Six Sleepover prompts teacher Brenda Dyck to consider how incorporating fun and humor into teaching may help create memorable learning experiences. Included: Resources for teachers who want to infuse more fun into classroom learning!

Image Some of my colleagues at school claim that I am one brick short of a load. Each spring, they remind me of this as they observe me organizing my annual Grade-Six Sleepover. I have to admit that as Sleepover day approaches, I too wonder whether this event represents a moment of insanity on my part. Organizing parent supervisors, calling breakfast crews, selecting menus, packing sleeping bags, and anticipating a night of nominal sleep usually causes me to question whether just having a picnic would be easier. All my doubts disappear around the time the first student arrives -- early!

It happened again this year. Hardly able to contain his excitement, Jake turned up one hour early. Grateful for another pair of hands, I put Jake to work setting up tables for our midnight snack and carrying candles and a tape deck down into the darkest part of the basement. Swearing Jake to secrecy, I share what will happen in this creepy cellar later in the evening. His brown eyes shine because now he is part of the conspiracy!

Creating an experience like this for my grade-six students is rather uncharacteristic for me. A core teacher in a testing year finds it so easy to have a serious plan in place at all times. Having my student scores published in the newspaper each fall isn't often far from my mind. That night, however, the Grade-Six Sleepover blurs my preoccupation with scores as we walk to the neighborhood ice-cream shop or have a water fight outside the school. (To the kids' surprise, I plant myself on the school roof and throw pails of water on their heads! I have to admit it is kind of satisfying!) Standards and assessment are far from my mind as we

  • play Sardines (reverse Hide-and-Go-Seek) in the dark inside the school
  • creep down into the deepest, darkest corner of the furnace room -- only candles lighting our way -- for a motivational, end-of-the-year send-off story
  • watch Remember the Titans in the gym
  • sleep in the school -- boys and girls are separated, in case you're wondering
  • enjoy a wonderful parent-made breakfast.
We laugh, we run -- even this 48-year-old body runs! -- and we joke. Parents chitchat, hold candles in the dark while I read to their kids, help me herd students from activity to activity, and cook breakfast. The children appear to be amazed that I can tear around like a water maniac, participate in spooky experiences, show them my tacky pajamas, and hang out on the floor watching movies.

Actually, it kind of surprises me too -- because so much of my life is spent in the serious realm.

Year after year, the kids and parents tell me that the Grade-Six Sleepover is the one thing they remember about their grade-six year. If that is so, perhaps I need to inject some of this craziness into my classroom more frequently. What long-term learning might occur if I infused my teaching with the unexpected, the humorous, and the power of relationship?