There has been a large amount of discussion amongst educators regarding teacher centred and student centred learning environments. Recently, our admin team snickered as we thought about elementary students leading their parents through student-lead conferences and then transitioning to secondary school to find out that they are no longer part of the conversation in parent-teacher conferences. This seems strange. Why would we have a system that is intended to build more independency and autonomy with age, yet give less responsibility and voice in the learning process as students transition from elementary or middle to secondary?
In our recent staff meeting, we spent some time discussing how we are using student self-assessment in our classrooms. How are we teaching students to recognize quality learning? How are we encouraging conversations between our students and parents about the learning that takes place in and out of school? Where is the gradual release of dependency for students as they move through our system? Why aren’t students present in parent-teacher interviews? It was interesting to hear about the different strategies that staff are incorporating into their lessons to ensure that students have a greater stake in their learning.
Last week, we held a meeting for the parents of our incoming grade nines to present what we are doing with digital technology at Riverside and to encourage students to come to school with a device. We were fortunate to have over 30 students volunteer their time to share with parents how they are using their devices for learning, what they like and don’t like about their devices, and their overall experience using the technology to deepen their learning. While I presented to half of our parents, the other half toured four stations to interact with our students. I must say that the highlight of the evening was the interactions between the parents and students. Imagine grade nines pulling up their Edublogs to show how they demonstrate their learning, discussing their file management system to stay organized, showcasing some of their creative works, and speaking about how they collaborate with their peers in and out of the classroom to support one another. The students were terrific. They showed their enthusiasm, honesty, and passion. It reminded me that we don’t tap into them nearly as much as we should.
Two weeks earlier, a few of us made a visit to Thomas Haney Secondary and Fraser Heights Secondary to learn more about what they do to empower their students to take more responsiblity for their learning. We heard about student-lead conferences, portfolios, flexible learning schedules, personalized learning, and cross competencies. We were curious as to how secondary schools were implementing some of these ideas. It was great to see schools who have turned these conceptions into action and we enjoyed the conversations with staff as we shared stories together. If we want students to be more invested in their own education, we need to release some of the control and be flexible in when, how, what, and where students learn.
It has become apparent to us that developing citizens to thrive in this 21st century requires us to realize the potential in our children. We often underestimate what they are capable of achieving. I enjoy watching school plays, seeing artwork, reading poetry, watching students experiment, witnessing the determination of winning a provincial championship, or sharing in the eloquence of a child’s spoken word. I get inspired by their depth of thinking as they analyze current and historical events, create videos and photographs that elicit strong emotions within, or design objects that demonstrate the innovative nature of our learners. It is a privilege to watch our students learn and a joy to see their pride when they showcase their learning to others. It’s time to hand over the reins and enable our students to take more ownership in their learning. We need to let the world see that our young citizens of today have a tremendous amount to offer.