How do we support students developing as efficacious self-directed, social learners and involve parents as partners in that journey?
I struggle with balancing expectations for student independence and inquiry with the patience and nurturing needed to help students graduate from school work to their own work. In my own life, I tend to make changes cold turkey, but what works for me as a person isn’t what works for my students as learners. Currently, I’m engaged in assessing the language I use in the classroom and the non-verbal cues I deliver, regardless of what I’m saying, to improve as a nurturer. Rather than act as a hang-gliding instructor (“Jump here; land there!”), I’m trying to act more like the hang-glider, lifting up students during their flights of learning.
Students bring their own curiosity and interests to class. I try to acknowledge and value these things through student-directed work aligned to student-selected reading and writing goals. For me, to communicate better how much I value what students bring to class, I need to slow down and match my nurturing words with patient, open nonverbal communication. I need to match speed with students. I need to lighten up. I need to be sure not to wound students through my impatience for progress. I need to become a learning platform.
I’m working on it. I’m kind of goal-oriented, so having a a particular end in mind (“Jump here, nurture there!”) works for me. I think. I’ll check with my kids and get back to you.
To help further a nurturing community of learning around students that rewards curiosity, inquiry, and communication about their work, here are some ideas I have for next year (or this Spring?) for involving students, parents, and experts in the work of our classroom:
- Continue student goal-setting and self-assessment. Keep embedding goal-setting in entrance and exit slips. Ask students to self-assess as pre-assessment for projects to set learning goals and decide on how to benchmark and measure their progress. Ask students to self-assess their learning and work at the end of projects. Ask kids to run student-led conferences twice per 9 Weeks, at both interim and report card times.
- Help students produce YouTube videos about a day in the life of our classroom. Share out the videos with parents, students’ friends, and my colleagues, as well as with visitors before they come to class.
- Help students produce a wiki for parents, friends, colleagues, and visitors that teaches them how to sign-up for the social media tools we use and how to follow our work via social media.
- Maintain a collaborative blog with students that features weekly posts about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and why we’re doing it our way.
- Maintain a collaborative Twitter account with students to share out daily work and discoveries.
- Establish a classroom Google Voice line for student and parent suggestions to be checked weekly.
- Write permissions forms that make it easy to say yes to social media. Include options for anonymous use of tools using randomized IDs. Include options for different levels of teacher oversight and input for social media accounts. Find a way for each student to participate in a personal learning network in a manner that’s comfortable to both the student and his or her parents.
- Work with the parent-teacher organization to create a parent blog about experiences with class and the school. Hold quarterly information nights for parents to explain and teach the social media tools we use in class and train parent bloggers. During class time, invite students to comment and respond to parents’ points of view on our learning.
- Create a visitor blog or map managed collaboratively by students, visitors and the teacher. Ask for introductions from visitors before they arrive – physically and/or virtually – and let kids comment on them. Ask visitors to write about what they’ve learned from our students and what they’ve learned about public education after their time in class
- Make Expo-Night an all day open-house to accommodate parents’ schedules and draw in community partners and division personnel. Dedicate a day per semester to display, present, and play around student learning. Run the day from the beginning of school through 6:00 PM or so, and keep kids after school as necessary for parents to pick up after work. Schedule student project and portfolio presentations and performances throughout the day, including physical education demonstrations and open-studio times for students ready to talk about their processes.
- Meet with the parent-teacher organization to brainstorm fund-raising ideas for class. While policy commonly says that principals have final say over classroom fund-raising, the parent-teacher organization can sponsor events on its own. Imagine a student Etsy boutique or classroom Donors Choose page maintained by a parent volunteer in collaboration with students and the teacher. Parent-teacher organizations are oftentimes already authorized to fund-raise in ways classroom teachers are not; take advantage of that by forging partnerships with parent-teacher organizations.
How do you take advantage of social media to strengthen your relationships with students, parents, and learning? Is it even right to think of ourselves as learning platforms?