How will you help build a dynamic, kid-centered, school culture?
At first glance, this question seemed pretty easy to answer.
I have a goal of talking less this year. When I talk less, the focus is on kids. They'll do the talking and their classmates and I will listen. They'll learn a lot more this way and so will I. I can learn more about what kids know and what they're able to do by listening to them than I can by doing all the talking. Can it get more kid-centered than that?
Of course there are other hallmarks of kid-centered classrooms. Our classroom is one where students have agency. They have a say in much of what they do throughout the day. Choice helps students to feel empowered in our classroom. Our Daily CAFE reading class structure puts students in the driver's seat. They have a say in establishing their goals and they decide which of the daily 5 literacy choices they'll focus on during our rounds of literacy instruction/practice. They are often in charge when it comes to decisions about how they'll show their learning. Decisions about what will be learned are based on what kids in our class can do and what knowledge and skills they'll need next.
But this doesn't really answer the question, does it? The question asks what I can do to build a dynamic, kid-centered school culture. That is a bigger, tougher, question to answer, isn't it?
I can be an advocate for kids in my school. I can give their concerns and worries and their valid complaints my voice. Better yet, I can stand behind them encouraging my kids to find their voices so that they can represent their own concerns and thinking. I can work to ensure that we treat kids and their educations with the respect they deserve. I can continue to ask the questions: how can we give our students more voice and more choice? Is the decision we're about to make in the best interest of the kids? I'll help us all to wonder what we can do to create a space where kids feel they belong. Too often, we focus on getting kids to comply. I'll work to shift the focus toward helping kids to establish a school culture where they have power.
While I'm always happy to speak up, I'm not always confident that I am capable of inspiring change in my school. Traditionally, I've contributed on the smaller stage. I work effectively with my grade-level team but I don't stretch myself to contribute school-wide. This is sort of strange because I haven't hesitated to contribute to district-wide efforts. I'll have to think more on why this is so.
Anyway, this school year I will share thoughtfully. I will give great consideration to how my share might be received and I'll be as sensitive as possible. I will be more receptive and tolerant of opinions that differ from my own. Again, I will make an effort to truly listen so that I can better understand all the members of my school community and their varying opinions. However, as I do this, I'll continue to return to our kids and I'll ask the question; what is in the best interest of our kids (not our adults).
I'm not sure I've really answered this question. It seems like I've put a lot of loosey-goosey intentions out there. This question deserves more thought and it deserves action. I promise to dedicate both thought and action as we move through the school year.