Today, six fifth graders from my homeroom shared their voices with a group of teachers at our district’s first ever edcamp. They were given a chance to talk about things that they are proud of in their learning and things that they wish we, as teachers, would change. They titled their session, “Are You Teaching for Tomorrow? Our Voice Matters.” I wish I would have recorded the entire session to share with the world because I was so proud of what they shared. You can view their Google Slides presentation here:
I attended a workshop about a month ago where Pernille Ripp was the keynote speaker. She talked about empowering our students and her presentation really hit a nerve with me. After leaving her session in the afternoon, I was determined to give my students more voice in the classroom. To give up some control and see what they are capable of when they have a say in how they learn and how they show evidence of their learning. To stop talking so much as teachers and start listening more to our students. I highly recommend checking out her blog, Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension, and her book, Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Her ideas have truly made a difference in my teaching and the learning that is happening in our classroom.
There have been times this year that I question what I am doing. Are my students learning enough? Am I preparing them for the state and district assessments that they will have now and in the future? With so much of our evaluation as teachers dependent on student data, how will I be judged as a teacher? I must admit, I have never been as stressed as a teacher as I have felt this school year. I am sure part of the stress is adjusting to a new grade level, but I know a huge part is worrying about trying something that isn’t traditional, that is a little noisy and messy. That isn’t as easy to evaluate as a multiple-choice assessment or to enter into the grade book for parents to see how their child is doing. I wonder each day if I am doing what is right by my students, are the things that I am teaching them going to help them tomorrow – especially when so many of those things won’t show up on a standardized test?
Listening to my students speak today gave me the strength and the confidence to continue on our path together. While nervous at first, I feel like they did a wonderful job finding their voice and sharing their message. And I hope they also got a chance to see another side of their teachers. Towards the end of the session, they asked the teachers to share one thing that they wish their student knew. What a powerful moment for the teachers to let them know how many of us feel about the tests, all of the data. That we see them as more than a number. The teachers gave them a standing ovation at the end, and I have to admit that I blinked back a tear or two. While we may not be changing the whole education system, maybe we can make a small change in one or two classrooms by sharing our voice. As I spoke with my students after, I had to thank them from the bottom of my heart because none of this would be possible without their hard work to show that learning doesn’t have to be boring. Learning doesn’t have to be one-size fits all. The final quote from my students today sums it up. I challenge any teacher reading this to think about what you are doing to prepare our students for the world of tomorrow. To go outside your comfort zone just a little and do what your heart tells you is right and have the confidence to know that you are doing what is right for your students!