Every school year the same thing happens.
On the first day of school I tell my students the story of George the Gummy Worm. George is no ordinary gummy worm. George, like any other candy animal, decides to take a summer vacation in the Caribbean and gets stuck on the top of his boat. Problem is…gummy worms can’t swim and they definitely dissolve if they float in the ocean too long.
It’s our job then to save the day with a “peach-O” life preserver and no hands!
When my students look at me with those wide eyes every teacher can picture, I know I’ve got them hooked.
“Mr. H! Mr. H! You’re kidding me right? What do you want me to do here? How do you want to me solve this problem? What strategy do I need to use? Is this lesson normal?”
“That’s up to you Molly. You’re in charge.” I respond calmly even though my inner teacher heart is jumping like a kid on a trampoline.
“Wait…WHAT?” she responds. “I get to pick… COOL!”
That is just the beginning of George the Gummy Worm’s epic survival.
These are the stories we need to make permanent fixtures in our classrooms. They bring a learner centered pedagogical approach to education where the student is in the driver’s seat of his or her thinking. It might sound crazy to some, but I think it’s completely possible.
Think about it.
It all starts with relationships.
We need to know everything about our students. What is your favorite subject? How do you like to learn? How do you like to be motivated? Who is part of your family? Where do you fit on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?
Even silly things such as what is your favorite football team or dance to do during free time? They all matter! We just have to take the time to ask, share and LISTEN!
Once we know our students, we need to present knowledge in different modes and perspectives which put students in the center.
Students deserve voice and choice in the classroom.
They can learn how to think about their own thinking and make choices which address their own needs. We just have to place them in environments where they are asked to think in this way.
Heidi Veal, principal and fellow twitter peer says, “Exceptional teachers take the time to seize opportunities and capture meaningful moments with students.”
Every lesson should be planned as an opportunity for our students to take charge. Not an obligation. We need to be transparent with our students, explain to them what is expected and why we doing things this way. We need to vary our pedagogical practice in order to place the student first.
We are all lead learners together.
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What does all this mean you might ask?
We teach in an era of high stake standards and assessments which promote raising the bar.
We should hold our students accountable!
But raising standards for the sake of raising standards is not going to have the same impact as increasing the learner centered focus in our classrooms.
John Dewey’s Pedagogic Creed states that,
“it is impossible to prepare the child for any precise set of conditions. To prepare him for the future life means to give him command of himself…”
As educators our role is to not spoon feed our students information or to teach to the test. Our role is to create experiences where students are asked to dig deeper, think about themselves and their own ideas independently.
Experiences where they are immersed in their surroundings while learning at the same time!
As educators, we are the guides to discovery.
It’s our calling to empower all our students to be the next independent lead learners themselves.
This guest post is written by Justin Holbrook @JustinHolbrook – Connect with Justin and give feedback on his post!
Justin Holbrook @justincholbrook 4th Grade Teacher
Roland Park Elementary/Middle School, Baltimore City Schools, MD
Consider continuing the conversation on #BmoreEdchat. Justin founded and moderates this inspiring weekly Twitter edchat Wednesdays from 9-10 pm EST.
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