How Do We Make It Personal?

Posted: 25th September 2013 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

I’ve been doing some thinking this week about how we go about the monumental task of meeting the needs of all our students. When you consider the different strengths, needs (academic and social), preferences, fears, interests, peer, media and family influences that affect each student, then times it by the 20 or 30 actual students in the class, it seems an impossible task. I was actually thinking about this around the dinner table when I was observing my own four educational guinea pigs (aka my kids) and how different each of them are…and how infrequently I can manage to keep them all happy at the same time. And that’s only four children. At the school in the last few weeks, I have worked with several different teachers as we have tried to problem solve situations to better meet the needs of certain students. These teachers have all been very well equipped with a multitude of great strategies to use, and yet we’re repeatedly looking for something else – that magic bullet to: increase achievement, improve behaviour, or accelerate learning. I’m all for strategies, but we have to realize that there isn’t going to be a magic bullet. Children don’t come with a quick fix button. Nor do they come with a consistent fix button – they are so constantly evolving, learning, and maturing in a way that we will always have to evolve our practice.
So if I can’t keep up at the kitchen table with four children, how can we hope to keep up with a class full of students? We need to stop seeing ourselves as the fix it people and start seeing ourselves as the facilitators that will help students find what works for each of them as individuals. We talk a lot about offering students voice and choice in education and I’m sad to say that often gets simplified to choosing to write an essay or a commercial as a final product. Voice and choice is so much more than that. It’s enabling students to figure out how they learn, how they think, what motivates and engages them, and what goals they are working towards. It’s providing them with support to try things out, to sometimes fail, to always reflect, and to always encourage. It’s teaching with less teacher talk and more teacher listening. It’s less student regurgitation of facts and more student synthesis of ideas (their own and others’). It’s a huge job and a shift in practice for students and teachers. It’s also a shift for parents. If you are expecting a spelling test every Friday and instead your child is assigned a reflection log for homework, please understand we are trying to help your child find their voice.
I’m looking forward this year to figuring out how we, as educators, can make student voice and choice a priority in our classrooms and what practical strategies we can use to make this huge undertaking possible for every student.
What do you think might help?

  1. adunsige says:

    Wow Kristi! What a post! I know that we’ve actually talked about this topic a lot, and yet, here I am with even more questions to think about. The line that really got to me was your one about “choice in education” and that being simplified to “writ(ing) an essay or a commercial as a final product.” This is so true! So how do we move past that? Does the same amount of choice work for all students? How do we support students that need more support while giving more choice to others? When it comes to “voice and choice” are things the same for students with special needs? I find that my choices are more controlled for certain students (e.g., those with autism), but could they be more open? How do we get to this point?

    Sorry for all of the questions! I guess that they come spilling out at this time of the night. 🙂 Thanks for giving me so much to think about!