I went to Target yesterday and was reminded that a new school year is just around the corner. As I look forward to the coming school year I am thinking about how I will create the classroom my students deserve. I know I want it to be full of choices and opportunities. Most of all I want every child to feel valued. I know one of the most effective ways to do this is through student centered learning. Powerful Learning Practice that takes student interests and builds on them to honor the student’s perspective while they simultaneously acquire central skills and knowledge necessary for a strong foundation. I am faced with the challenge of knowing what I will need to teach, letters, letter sounds, print and word awareness, sentence segmentation, rhyming, adding, subtracting, patterns, collaboration, connection, etc. but not how I will teach it because I don’t know my students yet. I find myself considering modular learning projects, student centered big idea investigations, that might spark interest in students. At my level that includes family, changing seasons, growing, or specific authors like Eric Carle or Lois Ehlert. I think this form of open ended thinking about education could be applied to how folks in positions of accountability enforcement could better understand effective teachers deep desire for autonomy. When I worked as a supervisor it was easy to only focus on the outcomes and to forget the importance of the process. Or, even worse, to assume that a certain process would not lead to the necessary outcomes. This is where scripted curricula become so favored. As Ariel Sacks discussed recently, her innovative, open-ended, and effective teaching methods would not work as a scripted curriculum. It might, however work if adopted as a choice by a teacher. The act of choice is an empowering process that teachers understand through working with students. It is not easily understood when entirely focused on outcomes. As we move forward with the national Common Core curriculum I can only hope that choice is considered as an effective teaching and learning method by administrators. We don’t know how students or teachers will best process these new standards but we do know that we don’t all learn or teach in the same way.
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