Week Five Theme: Student Agency
Why is student agency important?
Student agency is important. Giving kids a say in their education should start as early as possible. If we are to tout the merits of life long learning then we certainly have to give our students practice at taking the wheel and directing their learning. Giving students voice, choice, and the ability to advocate for what they need and desire is an important first step in helping students become life long learners.
Why should we embrace it?
I know this sounds basic but we should embrace student agency because it is the most humane thing we can do in our classrooms. Acknowledging that children are individuals with unique interests, talents, and styles, as we build trusting relationships is humane. When we do this, we honor our students and respect the adults they are growing into. When we are able to build trusting relationships with our students, we can encourage them to make choices based on their passions and to take risks. Because we've established this trusting relationship, students will know that they'll have our support when and if they fail. Learning to pursue our passions and take risks is key to success in life.
How can this help our students?
Student agency, when provided in the elementary classroom, helps our students by giving them safer opportunities to practice making choices and taking risks. When a child fails in a safe environment, and has support figuring out his or her next steps with a trusted adult or classmate, he or she learns that failure is an important part of success. When the teacher is calling all the shots, she owns the failure just as much as the student does. Empowering students to use his or her voice, to make choices in his or her best interest, and to follow his or her passion, and persist even when initial efforts result in failure, helps students to acquire the mindset and habits that will allow them to chase down their dreams.
What can or does this look like in my classroom?
Students in my classroom have a lot of voice and choice. First, they have a say when it comes to what they will work on during English Language Arts and Mathematics classes as we use structures, the Daily Cafe and math workshop, that support voice and choice. Students can work where they learn best as we use flexible seating. Students have a choice when it comes to how they'll practice their literacy skills. They choose the text, they choose there method (read to self, read to someone, listen to reading), and they choose how they'll attack their learning tasks. Students in our classroom are empowered to advocate for themselves. This happens as students set reading goals and help to determine which lessons they'll receive so that they can take their reading to the next level. In addition, students attend and run their own parent-teacher conferences. In this role, students are positioned to advocate for their needs and celebrate areas where they feel most accomplished.
I have a long way to go when it comes to providing agency for my students. In recent months, I've taken a few steps in the right direction.