Changing Learning Narratives

I have been on a little blog hiatus and I do apologize 🙂

This week I have been thinking alot about my student’s thinking.  What do they think of school?  What do they think the purpose is?  Most importantly, What do they think of themselves?

On Monday we went on a field trip to a local park to continue our study of insect life cycles.  Teachers from Raleigh Parks and Rec were there to guide us as we discussed life cycles, acted out insects, caught insects, and caught wildlife in the pond.  The kids were digging their hands through mud and water to find tadpoles, frog eggs, snails, fish, dragonfly nymphs and so much more.  They thought this was the best day EVER!  Is everyday at school the best day ever?  Unfortunately I know the answer is no and I know it would be an impossible yes.  Yet I still wonder, are there more great days than OK days?IMG_8695 IMG_8687 IMG_8683 IMG_8670

Alright so we go from the best day EVER back to the classroom….  How does three digit subtraction compete with that?  My biggest take away from recent readings is that agency matters, small changes in language matter.  In the classroom children must be able to count on some structure, some regular time to read, write, and do math.  They also have to be able to count on respect and freedom from personal judgement.  At the park, everyone was free, everyone was respected for what they found, and no one was better than anyone else.

It drives me nuts when children shout out “this is easy!”  I constantly respond by saying “what if you didnt think it was easy and you heard someone shout that?  How would that make you feel?”  Instead of saying “don’t say that!”  I am trying to create empathy, trying to point out that our words are powerful and it matters what we say!  I have to take my own advice here and position myself as an equal with my students and give them more autonomy.  It’s easy to get bogged down in the plan and not want to venture off course.

I read an anecdote about a child that would not pay attention while the teacher was reading aloud.  The teacher simply asked if he would like to go and read by himself and the child did.  The teacher later tried to learn from the child why the group work wasn’t engaging for him.  This BLEW my mind!  I so often am hounding a child to pay attention instead of letting them choose and then figuring out what went wrong.  I think if I asked a student if they would rather read by themself they would look at me with a shocked expression…I think I’ll try it!  The point is autonomy.  Giving the child choice and letting them explore in that.  If I am teaching something and they chose to go and do something else and they miss the lesson, then what?  Do you think they will learn that they missed something that everyone else got?  Or will they just fall behind?  I don’t know, but I think it’s worth a shot!

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One Response to Changing Learning Narratives

  1. tmckee219 says:

    I love the point that you made about autonomy! I agree – I think I sometimes spend more time getting my kids to pay attention than I do engaging with them in a lesson or activity! We have worked this year to be aware of taking brain breaks – doing Zumba or yoga or dancing – in between subjects, during transitions, etc. This has helped with the focus piece immensely.

    Teaching empathy is no small task, kudos to you for finding such a great way to do so. I agree, it is difficult to hear children announcing that they got a question right or did exceptionally well on something when we as teachers know there are other students who are not in the same situation. This is a great response that could prompt powerful conversation – I plan on using it with my classroom as well 🙂


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