Saturday, November 19, 2011

Our Daily Work is Student Driven...

As Ann and I reflect this weekend, we are continuing to devour literature based on the needs of our students.  Our conferences, thus far, have allowed us to articulate the perspective we have within our Multiage Program, as well as the individualized approach we are using, but also the future path we are projecting to travel through the course of the year.  And I say projecting because the bottom line is our path really is dependent on our students' needs and interests...

Our overarching philosophy continues to be:

Throughout conferences so far, students have been sharing personal highlights with their families, and these moments for us are priceless.  Their dialogue was not rehearsed, nor practiced, just purely from the heart.  They spoke of their goals, and each one displayed a unique passion for learning.  And can I say again outloud??-  "...And we are only in November people!!"  :)

Ann and I are thrilled with the milestones we have passed within just a few months; milestones we set for ourselves in developing our program.  What we have found over the course of the past 11 1/2 weeks is that our students (regardless of their academic standing or behavioral record) will rise to ANY occassion set before them, due to the environment we have established with them. We truly spent the first 6 weeks of school building a community: identifying learning styles/intelligences, celebrating uniqueness, exploring emotions, and building relationships.  These areas were discussed and practiced as we built the structure of our community and routines together.  The time spent on these endeavors has truly paid off!

We continue to explore the building blocks within each content area.  Our students prove to us everyday that they want to climb their individual towers, filling in their missing blocks as they go.  They know how to set a goal based on their own standards (individualized target walls), decide what resources they need, devise a plan, and accomplish the task (marking progress on their target walls on the standards-based continuum). They recognize what they know (GOT IT!) and what they don't (NEED IT!) based on their own evidence! It isn't about grades in our classroom community, but what building blocks they need to learn.  And if they have a particular building block, they become an expert within the community (aka "a resource"). 

This philosophy of student-driven learning is not new, but it does take a particular mindset.... to allow the students to be empowered by their learning.... to allow them to grow at them their own pace... to allow them to choose their daily goals/activities/resources... and to teach in a way that meets all learning styles within each whole group episode. We do not claim to be experts (as we are constantly in search of new ideas and strategies to further our own personal growth).  However, we do now how much "letting go" this process/teaching style/philosophy has required.

And just as we were searching and reading today, both of us became absorbed within the words of one teacher's blog... many of you may have already read his powerful statements and thought provoking dialogue. Thank you to Mr. Stumpenhorst! (And another thank you to Mrs. Ripp for nominating him on your blog, which allowed us to easily connect to his!) We are new to the daily following of blogs, but are really enjoying reading other educators' reflections about their daily work with students.  For Ann and I, finding Josh's words (as well as the numerous comments left by other educators on this path) was a full-circle moment for us....
***And Josh, we are at Phase 4 in general... thank you for putting this journey (mindset) into words! Ideas for moving to Phase 5???


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