Reflections on Cooperatives
At some point in the recent past, I became convinced we should start every school year with Cooperative Activities. I believe in them so much, we also take some time to do them right after the Christmas break. It is such a powerful way to build the class community and set the tone for the following months as we work together in class.
Since then, I’ve been on the hunt for powerful and purposeful activities that are both physically challenging and possess the potential for building relationship skills. And it certainly helps if the activity is fun! Games have such a powerful effect on us all, and they contain great potential in building life skills such as cooperation, relating, and even healthy competition.
One such activity is Crack the Codes. While there are several versions of this activity, I found the one created by Ryan Ellis particularly interesting. I discovered it while listening to his podcast and could not wait to get started! As soon as I was in my office the next day, I headed to his website to see the activity sheets he created.
The basic premise is this: One person guides a blind-folded partner across an area. The tasks and difficulty change as levels increase.
After having several classes participate in Crack the Code, some very interesting lessons were learned by the students and myself.
At the end of each class, students shared their successes, strengths, challenges, difficulties, and feelings about the process of leading and being led. They also examined how they felt being “blind.” Obviously, it was a limited experience. But some students felt it helped them gain a little empathy for those who live without sight.
To be a successful guide, you need to be clear and precise with your directions. Any vague wording isn’t helpful at all and might even cause your group to fail and start again. I’ve seen individuals excel at giving directions. To do this, they must identify with the “blind” person they are guiding. They put themselves “in their shoes” so they can speak the right words, guiding them accurately. Those who struggle to guide their partners rely on imprecise and vague words: “go here, go there, no, come this way!” Or, they guide their partner from their own perspective. You have a 50% chance of leading them incorrectly if you are facing them! This is where perspective comes into play. I would see students facing their partner, realize their mistake and then turn their body so they were facing the same direction as their partner. They had to take their own perspective OUT of the picture.
And as important as clear and concise directions are, nothing is as necessary as Trust. If you don’t trust your guide, you’ll either hesitate to follow them or not follow them at all. And it might not always be the guide’s fault. Some of us are prideful and think we know where we should go, even if we can’t see it. One such student flat out resisted his guide’s directions this week. “No,” he said. “The spot is over here!” Even though his guide was standing at the right spot, he stubbornly went the opposite way, getting further from the spot. He also came close to a penalty, nearly stepping on a spot until he finally listened to his guide.
Let’s just admit this: It is difficult to put yourself in the hands of another person. But guides can help you increase your trust in them by being trustworthy. Proving yourself over and over and admitting when you make a mistake will help your partner trust you. This embodies honesty, faithfulness and loyalty!
A couple of students allowed their blind partners to walk past the game boundaries, dangerously close to the walls. They did it in jest with no malicious intent. However, that decision made them less trustworthy (at least in this activity). It took some time for that partner to be able to quickly follow their instructions again.
One guide told his partner that the level was completed, then quickly turned to talk with some other students. The blind partner, not hearing his guide, continued to walk towards a brick wall. He stopped him in time, but it reminded me of how easily distracted we can get, our eyes straying from our responsibilities.
Some students struggled to focus purely on the voice of their guide. Many other voices were shouting out different words, some opposite of what they thought their guide had said. This led some groups to create a different “language” to speak, so they could focus easier on their guide. The guide would clap their hands, and the blind partner would simply follow the sound until it stopped. Then they would simply wait for a short verbal signal and continue.
Isn’t it like that in our world? We are trying to get along in life the best we can. We try to do right, but other “voices” sound off in our head, confusing us. Some things we read, listen to, or watch contain messages that are contrary to what is good, healthy and right for us or others.
So, we need to
Be a trustworthy guide, one worth following...
Careful & wise when choosing who to follow!
So I’m sitting on the floor, playing games with my son. We’ve done video games, played outside, and now we’re on the floor playing Sorry. We’ve probably played this game 5 or 6 times before with my wife and daughter. So he’s confident and competent, having learned well from his big sister. Even enough to teach my 3 year old daughter (which he has, and it was a great joy to behold).
What struck me this time, however, wasn’t the fact that he knew the mechanics of the game, but that he actually showed empathy for me while playing. At one point he drew the Sorry card, allowing him to knock one of my pieces off the game board and back to Start. At the moment he realized what card he had, he looked at me and said, in all sincerity, “Daddy, I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” His voice was filled with sadness and regret. Fighting tears, I told him I loved and appreciated him and that it was ok! It was just part of the game.
I’ve been alive for 52 years. In all that time, I’ve experienced a lot. I’ve been dealt a lot of “cards." Not all of them. Not by a long shot.
I have NO idea what other “cards" are in the deck.
Like the COVID-19 card. Sheesh...Didn’t know that one was in there!
Have there been pandemic events in the world before? Yes. But I wasn’t "playing the game” then, either by not being alive, or not in that part of the world.
Have I been sold into human slavery? No, blessedly, I have NOT been given that card.
Have my rights been trampled on? Have I been judged or missed opportunities because of my skin color? Have I been oppressed because of where or how I was born? Have I experienced any horrible tragedies?
Yet, sadly, I know some of us have.
Have I been treated unfairly? Yes. Have I also made that same poor decision against another person?
Sadly, yes. Have I suffered personal loss? Yes.
And have I been blessed? Absolutely! I’m blessed with a wonderful family and a great group of people I’m honored to call friends. I’m blessed with a job at a great school with positive and encouraging leaders and get to teach alongside talented & loving people. I’ve had incredible mentors in my life, providing guidance and an excellent example for me to follow. Sure, there are some blessings I’ve not experienced. But overall, I’m content.
So, I see there are cards in the deck I’m aware of, and others of which I’m not. Regardless of my awareness, both types of cards exist. I've certainly had a mix of them in my life.
I love this pic posted by Michael J. Hynes. I saw it this morning and was grateful as it coincided with this current challenge to my circumstances.
So how will I spend my energy, now that I’ve been dealt these cards?