Keeping Students at the Center: Shifting Our Professional Responsibility

by Mary Howard

This week #G2great was delighted to highlight a much-needed topic that has been a recurring theme over the past four plus years of our existence. On 4/18/19, we engaged in enthusiastic collaborative dialogue for Keeping Students at the Center: Shifting Our Professional Responsibility. Your co-moderators (Fran, Val, Jenn, Amy, Mary) are committed to our collective responsibility for ensuring that children are given a seat of honor center stage of our professional priorities. Judging by the #G2great Twitter response, it seems clear that this is a common sentiment expressed by many educators.

I was thrilled to be afforded the opportunity to write this after-chat reflection on a topic near and dear to my heart. Keeping students at the center of all we do is challenged in an age where programs, agendas, mandates or personal desires compete for attention. Too many schools are the poster child for how not to keep children at the center; a model for what happens when actions confiscate values and our unwavering desire to put kids above all collides with reality. When things compete for our focus on children, a professional tug of war invariably thwarts our efforts to awaken a “child first” spirit.

As I perused the inspired tweets following our chat, I kept returning to question 1 that epitomizes this spirit. I realized that in order to put children first so that we can keep them at the center, we must use the language that reverses our sense of priorities with the “YOU” that breathes life into this spirit. When our practices are riddled with a ME-WE mentality of personal or schoolwide agendas, we turn a blind eye to those who should be the central informant for all we do – children.

The more I thought about this idea, the more I realized that this YOU-centered question warranted my reflection focus. I returned to my lengthy collection of tweets and centered my thoughts solely around those based on question 1. In this post, I will spotlight twelve tweets followed by my brief refection.


Kim highlights the starting gate of YOU. Before we can bring YOU to life, we first build relationships to demonstrate that we value our children.
Kasey reminds us that YOU is a invitational event that connects us both. Through these shared experiences, wonderful realizations come into view.
Laura recognizes that we could learn much about children if we celebrate the daily agenda free writing about reading that illuminates who they are.
Cara emphasizes that giving writing a public audience within a personal blog space offers insight into the thinking that rises from this experience.
Valinda shows us that teaching and learning are a collaborative event. If we are brave enough to changes sides with our children, we gain so much.
Mary Anne continues the student as learner perspective by using their reading and writing as visible references to support instructional choices.
Mollie illustrates that being a learner is about our history of experiences. This history can help us by looking back so that we may ponder next steps.
Jenn points out that our carefully selected learning tools can enhance this learning. Scaffolds offer supportive stepping stones from NOW to NEXT.
Derrick underscores that we teach with our sights on empowering our children. Independence is seen as the ultimate goal of our focus on YOU.
Julie asks us to look squarely at the core of YOU. When we respect that learning is closely linked to confidence, we make that our daily priority.
Fran extends the role confidence building plays by demonstrating that enthusiastic kidwatching with feedback can elevate our focus on YOU.


I don’t normally share my own tweets in my posts, but as I came to the close of this reflection, I realized that this is the way it was meant to end. The day after Christmas 2018, I wrote a facebook post on something a wise teacher did for my niece Kendall that brought her YOU to the surface. If we truly want to keep students at the center of all we do, then we must make it our professional imperative to notice the remarkable gifts children carry with them within and beyond our four walls. Once we do, we then let them look into the proverbial mirror every day as we celebrate their YOU from both sides.

In closing, thank you for keeping students at the center as you thoughtfully sharpen your own lens by gazing through the oh so wise eyes of our children.