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Yesterday, Celina and I had the opportunity to share what we do in our classroom with others at a presentation for empowering learners. We spoke about the 5 powerful strategies that are the basis for our program: choice, reflection, self-assessment, students as teachers, and student voice. The 4 ½ hour return trip was spent laughing and reflecting on all that we have been able to accomplish with our students in the last year and half. How we have grown as teachers, how our students have grown and how our program has evolved into creating an environment for learning that could work in a multiage context or any straight grade setting.
Why does it work? It is a mindset, a way of thinking. It is not a canned program or a prescription, it is about starting with the students first, considering what they need, and focusing solely on all of the ways we can meet those essentials. We start with our students, determine the standards they require, and then pull from our curriculum and other resources in order to meet those needs.
No matter what the standards are, or what the curriculum is, you cannot make it happen without starting from where the kids are and what they still need.
Thinking in this manner, with this mindset, means that the standards and curriculum you work from are basically irrelevant! They just become a set of “building blocks;” they are those elements that you scale on the path to becoming an accomplished learner. We started our program last year with the state standards, but easily transitioned to CCSS when they were put into use. In the past few years our district has implemented new curriculum in Art, Social Studies, Math, Spelling and World Languages. While this could have easily overwhelmed us, we instead chose to look at these materials as just a new set of basic resources from which we could pull (or our students could seek) the knowledge that was needed.
We pass this mindset on to our students. The realization that they can achieve anything they set their minds to, they can grow from where they are, take charge of their learning, and be empowered in their abilities and choices.
We returned today to our classroom tired, but exhilarated and eager to share and celebrate with our students all that we have experienced, shared and received in response. Our students were so proud, so happy that their Brain Books were shared, so excited that “THEY” were our topic of conversations. Overall though, I felt awe in them and from them, the awe in knowing that their words and work have the power to transform education for all the administrators and teachers who were at our presentation and eventually all the students who will be impacted by this new learning. They have the power to change the world for others as they have changed it for us. It starts with the students and the learning never ends.
PS Thank you to "our people" for making it possible!