By Senior Staff Developer Nancy Meredith
A week ago, hosting book club at my house, I decided to deviate from the usual rituals and routines as we embarked on the Christmas season. As host, it’s our job to provide books from which to choose for our next selection. Great! Rounding up a stack of books is simply a wonderful excuse to head to local bookstores, one of my life’s little pleasures. And because it was December, the month of giving, I decided to wrap each book… who doesn’t love unwrapping a gift? Right?
The books were cheerfully wrapped and contained a tag with a small ‘blurb’ about each one. Passing the books was filled with giggles and delight, knowing our ‘first’ selection would be made by the feel of the book and it’s ‘blurb.’ Then came the time to unwrap the book remaining in each person’s hand… joy, excitement, hope, love, surprise… and peace of mind that a choice would be made.
Thinking about this notion of gifting, what gifts do we as teachers/educators receive as we become more learner-centered? What thoughts and feelings arise as our kids own more of their learning? Looking back to September when we talked about warmth… reflection, environment, comfort, and conversation… to October where we extended our discussion to student voice and autonomy, using open-ended questions, explicit instruction, and not only student reflection, but a teacher’s as well… to November in which gratitude around speaking our heart, moving practice forward, and empowering ourselves… now in December when we can really begin to name for ourselves some of the ‘gifts’ of releasing control. Now, when what began as baby steps, has become our rituals and routines. Holiday gifts… What have our students/colleagues given us?
- Joy of Choice and Voice. With our newly found joy of relinquishing control, students now have more choice, possibly in the reading materials, the activities they choose, where they sit to learn and thinking deeply. And with choice, comes voice around decision-making, perspective-bending, and aesthetics.
- Excitement. Looking through the lens of engagement, how exciting it is to see kids moving from compliance and playing the ‘game’ of school to social, behavioral, and cognitive engagement where they are finding connections to the content meaningful, relevant, and authentic, where the urge to know is greater than ‘how many points is this worth?’ and where the behavior of learners is truly understood.
- Love of Our Practice. As our classrooms take on the feel of a learner-centered place to be, we love our practice at a deeper level. The planning makes sense, identifying the work we want our students to do. It becomes fun and enjoyable to think about how to each and every student will access the content. Sharing ideas across classrooms via peer learning labs, PLCs, or coaching becomes the norm.
- Peace of Mind. As we continue to ease into the learner-centered classroom, that tentativeness and apprehension continues to melt away. Our own sense of agency and efficacy has increased allowing for even more teacher control to be released.
- Believe. When we truly examine our own beliefs and matching those to our practice, do we realize the importance and empowerment of our work. When we believe that struggle is healthy, deep thinking takes time, and relationships are key to achievement then our trust deepens and our practice moves forward.
- Hope. Given all the things thrown at educators, the classroom is where we receive the greatest of gifts: our students. When listening to a kindergartener explain his/her thinking about a piece of writing, when listening to seventh graders ‘argue’ points of a Socratic seminar using kind discourse, when listening to high school history students get excited about a photo essay that will be on display in the town public library… these are the things that give us hope.
I wish you the merriest of holidays and a blessed 2020!