Traveling this summer seems to have offered me a lot of time for reflection. There is something about sitting on an airplane, getting nervous about the days ahead and thinking of how did one ever up there? I realize time and time again that there are certain truths that guide everything I do and that if I ever stray from those truths then I hope I have the spine to admit it. Because as I travel, I realize more and more that this is not about me, about Pernille the teacher, but instead about the very kids I teach. About the kids we all teach and yet we seem to so easily forget that as we make decisions in our schools, in our classrooms.
So I realize once again that while I may think I have all of the answers, I won’t ever know unless I ask my students. That my job is not to foresee and problem solve every little thing, but instead to let them explore and to create alongside me.
That when we go out and share what our students are doing, we need to recognize that this is not about us, but about them. That it is their education at stake, not our own, and that is why this mission is so very urgent.
We are losing kids every single day in our classrooms. We are losing them when we remove control over even the slightest things. We treat them in a way we would not want to be treated ourselves, and then expect them to just be ok with it because that is a part of childhood. We dictate bathroom breaks, where they sit, who they work with, and even how they share, sometimes allowing very little autonomy in the process. And then at the end of the day we wonder why they are exhausted and cannot wait to get on with their “real” life?
What if every decision we made was centered on what is best for students? I know we say that that is what drives us, but is it really? When we decide on curriculum do we pick it because it is easy for the adults to implement or because it will inspire the children? When we seek out learning opportunities do we do it for the right reasons or because it is another thing to check off our to do list?
When we control our classrooms so that we can function, do we ever wonder who those we teach will react to the perimeters we set up?
So we can talk about personalizing learning, or whatever other buzz term we are all infatuated with at the moment, or we can talk about good teaching. About creating learning opportunities that center on the student, on the child, and not the adult needs. We can remove the “alizing” and just focus on the person instead.
Change may seem hard, but it gets easier as we go. Think of the small things that already communicate to students that what they need is not as important as what we need. Think of all the little rules we have in our classrooms that do not benefit them nearly as much as they benefit us. And then do something about it.
When I ask my students what they wish every teacher would do it is not to give them less work, to give them less tests, or even to speak less – we teachers, do love to talk – it is to let them choose where they sit. Almost every time. If that doesn’t speak volumes about how powerless students feel in their education, I am not sure what will.
So this summer, or winter depending on where you are, whenever a new decision needs to be made, don’t think of what you need. Think of what kids might need, and if you are not sure; ask them. They are ready to tell us if we only ask.
I am currently working on two separate literacy books. While the task is daunting and intimidating, it is incredible to once again get to share the phenomenal words of my students as they push me to be a better teacher. The first book titled Reimaging Literacy Through Global Collaboration is scheduled for release November, 2016 by Solution Tree. The second, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge. So until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.