By Amy Brennan
People, places and perspectives. Within our school systems there are so many different people; the students, the teachers, the parents, the administrators and other members of the community. These stakeholders each come from different places with different perspectives but the one stakeholder closest to the learning and arguably our most important is the student.
On 6/9/16 #G2Great we flipped our perspective and brought in an expert. The expert in this case, is a student with the perspective that should always be the first we consider in teaching and learning. To bring this perspective we were honored to have guest host, Sam Fremin, or as he is known in the Twittersphere @TheSammer88. Sam is a 9th grade student who is a two time panel presenter at NCTE and an inspiring young man who helped us to shift our perspective for a different view on our instructional practices.
Throughout our chat, Sam helped us re-envision eight essential instructional points that will allow us to make this shift.
When we slow down and shift our perspective we can begin to view teaching from a student’s lens. Reflection around Sam’s tweets allow for a thoughtful change in perspective and allow for the possible revision of our own thinking. As we re-envision motivation Jessie Miller reminds us of something that seems so simple and obvious: if we ask and listen, students will tell us what motivates them. Sam guides us to remember that as social creatures we crave the story. We can facilitate motivation when we listen to students tell their stories.
Create a safe supportive learning environment where children feel safe to take the risks that are necessary in learning. This statement is one that was the foundation of much of my learning as I prepared to become a teacher. When students are at the center of the classroom, they experience comfort and ownership that will enhance their learning experience. Allowing for flexibility along with input from students will help to ensure that students are in a learning environment that will best support their learning. As we begin to think about classroom design over the summer months, we need to consider the perspective of our students and plan for ways to engage them in the process of creating their learning environment. How will you plan for ways to involve your students in co-creating the classroom environment when they begin the new school year? You will want to think about this from the perspective of your students as you begin a new school year.
The flexibility that comes with differentiation of instruction creates so many opportunities for educators to consider in planning. These tweets below show us that we need to embrace reflection and change in order to best meet the needs of the learners who are the source of our planning. Being open to feedback from your students provides the perspective of the learner and allows us to plan for true differentiation in learning.
True student engagement is not usually questioned because we know it when we see it. There is a certain buzz about the room when we see students authentically cognitively engaged. Engagement can be the doorway to a student’s learning as well as the constant vehicle that brings students along on the road to learning. Monitoring engagement provides a way for teachers to collect and analyze data. Using this data provides the rationale for changing our plans or simply put, being a responsive teacher.
Collaboration is perhaps one of the most widely desired skills that employers are seeking for their future workforce. Modeling for students just how collaboration works is one way that students learn how to effectively collaborate. The partnership work that begins early in our reading and writing workshop are perfect “labsites” for students to practice skills and get feedback from peers as well as the teacher. Expanding from partnerships to book clubs and then some larger groups offers the opportunity to build on this skill for college. Jason, one of Sam’s teachers (@MisterAMisterA) emphasized that he was working on a 100% plan together phase. Students create not only their assessments but their curriculum.
Transfer of learning is our goal in the learning process. We want students who have learned in one context to be able to transfer that learning and apply it in a different setting. When our students are able to transfer, it is only then that we know learning has stuck. During the chat as Sam shared his perspective on transfer and reminded us that school is more than just curriculum, Justin (@jdolci) shared that we are not just teaching isolated subjects, we are teaching learning. When we apply a student lens to transfer we can see the importance of teachers acting as facilitators to support those opportunities for transfer. In the end, we want our students to take what they have learned in our school environment and transfer it to solving real world problems. The thinking skills we teach in literacy will serve our students well as adults, and this happens when we teach for transfer.
Homework is big topic for debate in recent years. Parents, administrators and teachers have their perspectives and during our chat Sam shed light on the issue of homework from the eyes of a student. Sam reminds us that students need to understand the rationale behind homework. Our students know when homework assignments are not purposeful. Sam’s choice of the word disheartened in the tweet below should call us to attention and remind us that students need to know the rationale behind homework assignments. We have to ask ourselves if there is a rationale for the work, can we we explain it to our students. Sam’s words remind us that no student should feel disheartened ever about homework. Sam’s suggestion about using homework as a way to “broaden” our students’ horizons is a piece of advice well worth listening to and implementing.
Students like Sam are in a great position to offer their perspective to educators. Looking through the lens of a student in this area shows us how important it is to stay current and use technology to enhance instruction in the same way it is used in the world. If technology is present in every aspect of life as Sam points out, then so should it be in schools where students are being prepared to enter college and careers.
People, places and perspectives. Our school systems are built from people from different places all with different perspectives. If we believe in the strength of the many people within our instructional setting, the different places they’ve come from and the unique perspective each person brings to the learning experience, we will discover the immense power in our school system. As we embrace people, places and perspectives, we build bridges that will shift our lens to varied viewpoints and catapult collective learning. That is where there is true power — collective learning. We are all grateful Sam allowed us to re-envision our teaching through his eyes as we look ahead to a new year.