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World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements, by John Hunter
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2013
As teachers we need inspiration and support. If you are feeling a need to think about your purpose in the classroom and the meaning you have on those in your path, pick up a copy of World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements, by John Hunter. I was intrigued by the prologue, and the inspiration and entertainment continued throughout the entire recollection of Mr. Hunter’s experiences in his classrooms since 1978.
“The classroom is supposed to be empty. The room is so quiet that at first I think it is empty.” So begins the journey with Mr. Hunter and his experiences with his development, implementation, and learning through The World Peace Game. I did start the book with the idea that I too would learn to teach my kids through The World Peace Game. This game, however, is more complex than being able to pick up a book and teach it. That was not the point of the book. This is a reflection of experiences, children, interactions, and lessons learned from Mr. Hunter. It was more meaningful to me than being given a list of supplies, scenarios, and the script for the game, however. What I discovered while reading is that I was able to reflect on my own classroom experiences and gain understanding to what it means to teach and how I can transform my classroom to engage learners and enable them for life.
The book takes you through the birth of the game and how it began in Mr. Hunters mind. He was able to translate this into a simulation for his students and along the path he has transformed the game to evoke higher level thinking, questioning, meaning for his kids. The setting of the game is important; this is not a packaged idea that can be implemented quickly or in passing. Mr. Hunter eloquently explains the importance of classroom atmosphere and community.
“…and they trust me because we have a deep, rich relationship…”
“…we have learned the first lesson of the Game: What affects one of us affects all of us.”
“So I trust my intuition and as to which students need the change to grow into leaders, and I trust the class to cope with whatever situations that produces.”
There are stages of learning the game that apply to classroom situations. These stages can be seen when students are presented challenges and problems, then given the room to explore, reason, fail, and find answers. Understanding these seven stages helped me reflect on the lessons and activities I present. The activities that are truly meaningful: they will follow these stages. Those that are forced and not given enough time, are rushed, or otherwise not as meaningful: they will fall short of this.
“The one-size-fits-all model of education is out the window, for the ultimate solution that my students create each time has never been seen before in exactly this way.”
It made me question, “What do I want in my classroom?”
The stories in the book are open, honest, reflective, and led me along the journey Mr. Hunter has taken as an educator as well as a person.
“Every time Jared was victorious in battle or negotiations, he burst into an exaggerated celebration.”
“You matter…Especially within the collective, you are powerful.”
The complexities, relationships among students, failures, and victories I felt a part of. I felt like a friend of Mr. Hunter’s, a treasured observer in his classroom, part of this learning process.
One drawback I found in the book was the lack of direction in the game. I cannot replicate this with my students. I cannot play the game now after reading the book. But I understand why. It is complex and intricate. There must be a relationship among and with students. It’s not about teaching me to teach the game; it’s about seeing into his classroom, wisdom, experiences. It’s about becoming more of teacher and more of a person and thinking holistically about the classroom, what I ask of students, and what I allow them to do. It’s not about learning to play the game; it’s about learning to live life.
If you are looking for a book about education that inspires and causes you to think, pause, wonder, and question – pick up a copy of World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements. This would be a wonderful read as the end of school draws near, or a fabulous summer read. I think you will find inspiration and ideas to think of that will impact any grade level or subject you teach. It will reinforce the wonderfulness you have in your classroom and push you do tweak or change lessons to do more. “Don’t worry, the children will do it. You’re just there to help them.”
Disclaimer: This book was provided to The Educator’s Room free of charge by the publisher. However, neither The Educator’s Room nor the reviewer received any compensation for this review. The opinions contained in this review are those of the reviewer alone and were written free of any obligation or agreement with the publisher. If you have any questions regarding book reviews, see our full disclaimer or contact the Book Review Editor.