Last Friday, Celina and I had the amazing opportunity to share our message with our school. We were asked to explain our program, and took it as an opportunity to truly reflect on what has made a difference for us this year in being a multiage learning community.
We were both moved by George Couros’ fantastic post on the Connected Principal’s Blog about defining the WHY in our experience with our program. He cites the Simon Sinek TEDTALK about the fact that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it”. It had us both reflecting on the WHY that we wanted and needed to share about our program.
WHY? Why do we believe that embracing a multiage classroom is transformational? What perspectives has it provided for us?
1. Teaching multiple ages within one room recognizes the variance that naturally occurs within a classroom in terms of academic range. Our students are 3rd, 4th and 5th graders, but their academic ranges in math and reading span the grades of 1st to 8th and beyond. Having multiple ages in our room pushed us to approach learning differently.
2. Teaching should be about meeting students where they are, from academics to social/emotional needs. Trying to fit kids into a prescribed, paced curriculum is unrealistic and ignores them on a personal level. Connecting with students in terms of learning style, voice and mindset appreciates who they are and inspires them to join in.
3. Helping kids to create and grow a student learning community means that they learn about true collaboration, empathy and building a growth mindset. Learning to work together with authentic communication and appreciation of one another for their strengths and challenges builds empathy in all, creating a safe place for students to share and grow.
4. Connections are a crucial part of all learning conversations. So much of learning has become segmented and manageable, yet removes the true relational understanding that helps kids to retain what they learn. Connecting learning through thinking strategies, problem solving and creativity has opened doors for our students that make the learning process achievable for all.
5. Lastly, learning is not exclusive to our students; Celina and I are also part of the learning community and we must continue to learn from our students and for our students. We have extended ourselves through research, books and classes to better meet the needs of all of our students. As David Sousa says, “The brain that does the work makes the most growth.” So no longer do we spend our time on irrelevant tasks, but rather in seeking out PD that we can translate to success within our classroom. Whether it is ideas gained through Twitter or reflecting on our blog, we are continually reminded that lifelong learning is the expectation we set for ourselves and our students. At the same time we recognize and appreciate that what we have learned comes in large part from our daily work with our students. The atmosphere of learning established within our classroom extends well past our classroom doors for all of us.
So often conversations around the multiage program only question the WHAT we do and HOW we do it. These conversations are mired in curriculum choices or instructional strategies we have employed. Assumptions are made which had me thinking even more about the fact that the WHY is necessary and essential to spreading our message. Wouldn’t it be great to start a movement around WHY we do what we do, WHY we make the choices we do for children, and WHY meeting children where they are is imperative for helping them grow?
We ended our talk with the fabulous TED TALK on “How to start a movement” by Derek Sivers which is truly not to be missed. 21st century learning and teaching will require a new mindset and we hope that multiage can lead the way. ~Ann