Friday, April 13, 2012

Success from Failure? Student Advocacy

I wrote the following note on my class blog, which is designed for an audience that consists of primarily the school community. I advocate for my students. There seems to be general consensus amongst the teaching community about where we want to go and how we can get there (not that there is "harmonious" agreement ... but I would say we all agree that giving a Grade 5 student a percentage grade is no longer good practice ... you can get my point). The students get this too - and they can express this ... to us.

Enter parents.

Don't get me wrong. I love the parents within our school community. They are engaged, they participate, they support; however, in the hyper-competitiveness that characterizes Hong Kong culture, I often feel students are coming to school with lots of baggage, notably expectations to perform and excel. Mistakes are not often viewed as being positive and learning journeys are more focused on product over process.

Again, don't get me wrong. There is increased understanding of this amongst those that don't work in schools daily, but how often have we heard parents describe (and compare) how it was when they went to school? Is this fair? Is the era they went to school the same as now? Aren't there societal, cultural, economic differences between now and then that we need to acknowledge as educators and address within our schools?

Why do we allow these comparisons to the past be made as if they should be even considered valid in  today's educational landscape?

Therefore, I see myself as an advocate for students, someone to help them find a voice to express their learning, their struggles and their successes.

I can't wait to see my kids in action next week!

Also, thanks to the Twitterverse for the opening quote and the links shared below.

Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, “I’ll try again tomorrow.” — Mary Anne Radmacher

As our Student Led Learning Reviews are occurring next week, I thought I’d share two very important (and short) articles that I feel are extremely poignant in today’s educational landscape (here and here). Believe it or not, our Grade 5 students get this and clearly understand that our classroom is a place where failures and mistakes can be celebrated as learning opportunities; indeed they are viewed as part of the overall learning journey. I make mistakes just about daily and, when I reflect upon them, I learn valuable lessons. The space we provide our children to discuss their learning (and mistakes) is equally valuable.

On Wednesday, you will be a part of your child’s learning journey as they take the lead in sharing their academic, social and personal development over the past school year. This journey is self-selected; that is, each student has decided what he/she will share with you as well as the format for this sharing. Some of you will be taught a game, others asked to solve a Math problem. Sometimes you will be asked to listen to an explanation or a description. What will be consistent in all of this is that your child is expected to connect every aspect of this journey on Wednesday to their learning. Parents should be probing more deeply by asking constructive questions about learning, and which may involve skills, knowledge, understanding and/or the attitudes and attributes of the Learner Profile. Reserve judgement on the mistakes you might see and instead focus on the process and learning that has taken place.

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