Sunday, December 18, 2011

Understanding themselves, AS LEARNERS

I think, believe, and feel deeply that a student's attitude directly affects their ability to learn. Negativity is a form of stress, so when students go to that "bad attitude place" it inhibits their ability to meet their potential. When students are in this place they shut down or check out from the discussions or activities at hand. However, when students are in a positive place it allows them a little perspective. They can think more clearly, be aware of the learning that is taking place, and participate with the conversation.

In our 3/4/5 multiage classroom, my teaching partner and I use a variety of metaphors and activities to show students what is happening in their brain during this state of "stress". We have many discussions regarding negativity and how they must be responsible for the energy they bring into our learning environment, because it directly affects themselves and others. While building our community and having these discussions, students also participate in a variety of activities and questionnaires to discover specific details regarding their own learning PROFILE. The learning environment is set up to meet each individual student’s needs, and students are trained on how to efficiently use the resources within our community to fit their own learning style. Students feel a desire to learn because they know their personal goals, understand their individual needs, and are empowered to push themselves forward.

Music, art, color, humor, and dancing are also integral parts of our classroom. Students enjoy the novelty and it generates a lot of dialogue, smiles, and laughter. We have taken the time to interact with each other through a variety of venues, building up appropriate social skills within each individual. Over the past 8 years I have taught, the most important thing I have learned is that students MUST "buy-in" to their own learning. They need to be empowered with a sense of purpose and urgency. Teaching students to be advocates for their own individual needs creates the motivation to learn. Then providing them with a safe, nurturing, resourceful environment allows for the learning to take place.
As teachers, we also model learning for students. We share with them our interests related to our own path of learning, explain to them how we use the thinking strategies in our real-life endeavors, and are open and honest about our own personal growth. Keeping a passion for learning on display empowers them in impressive ways. It makes them want to step up and lead or teach their peers, as well as achieve the goals they set for themselves.

So I encourage teachers, who are facing the dilemma of motivating students, to ask themselves the following questions: What is possibly the cause of the disconnect? Do they understand the purpose of a particular lesson, or even the purpose of learning? Do they have a sense of urgency for learning? Are they empowered with the confidence to take on a challenge? Do they believe in themselves, or even just believe they are intelligent? ...And most importantly, "Do the students understand themselves as learners?"

Better yet, ask your students... their voices will shine with insight.   :)


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