Sunday, March 24, 2013

Students Drive to Pass It On

Many of you who follow this blog know that my students are voracious writers. Much of their writing is through their KidBlogs (Did I Make the Grade?Whose Voice is Heard?). They set the expectations the first week of school. Rarely do I give them a prompt, however, I wanted to know how they felt that they had grown and changed a person from our time together this year. I wondered if they had seen the same growth that I had seen or if they had made discoveries about themselves that I had missed. I always find these posts particularly insightful. If you want to know what a student thinks, ask them. You will gain a wealth of information that can guide you in preparing learning activities that will meet their needs.

What I learned this time was a re-occurring theme. Their own words express it best...
What I want to accomplish by the end of Fifth Grade is I want to learn how to teach other individuals how to become better learners so that they can teach others. 
I have learned to teach myself and others too. So now others can learn the same way I did. In the fifth grade, I have learned how to become successful in life. 
I want to accomplish learning about what everyone is like what their opinions are because they all matter.  what I want to accomplish at the end of the year to here what others think and what they got to say. 
I need to help other people to under stand the subjects that they are having trouble with. 
Well, when I began 5th grade I usually did things on my own, but now I see why it is important to work as a team and not always do things alone. I guess that is one way I have changed as a person.
In a world where so many in society are complaining about apathetic youth and bemoaning our future, I discovered a class who was very "others" centered. Yes, they want to learn, communicate, and share their voices, but they understand why it is important to connect and collaborate with others. My brilliant learners had come up with this separately on their own. Yes, in our classroom, we live that idea everyday by sharing our background experiences, thoughts, ideas, and respectfully challenge one another's thinking. However, through their experiences they found the relevance of it and pursue that course daily within and without of the classroom walls. We cannot be a world that only looks for what we need and "take" from others without being willing to jump in and give back our knowledge, our expertise, and parts of ourselves. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Teaching or Learning?

This week I have been involved in an ongoing conversation about whether as educators we should be focusing on our teaching or on student learning. As was contemplating this idea, an analogy came to mind that I feel represents how I feel about this discussion:
A teacher is like a good cab driver. A good cab driver knows the best routes to get from Point A to Point B. He knows how to get around construction, avoid troublesome traffic, and make the ride a pleasant one for the occupant. However, until someone gets into the cab, that knowledge is superfluous. Once the occupant gets into the cab and tells the driver where she wants to go, it is the driver’s abilities and skills that help her successfully reach her destination. He gets her to her destination avoiding construction, gliding around traffic jams, while still maintaining an enjoyable experience. As teachers we must be knowledgeable and skilled in strategies and ways to meet all of the challenges that students bring to us. However, without the students showing us their needs, we have no way of knowing which way to navigating their learning. 
I feel that this debate is really focusing on the role of the teacher and the role of the student. Do we want our learners to be passive recipients of information? Or, do we want them to dive into topics, applying their knowledge and skills in a real world, meaningful way? Do we want for our students to merely score well on a standardized test? Or do we want for them to become successful in their lives outside of the classroom walls?

What do you think? I'd love to hear your voice on this subject.

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc