It’s not just about reading, writing, and arithmetic anymore…or is it? There is so much to do: teach; implement; master; differentiate; create; innovate; and of course technologize. We are encouraged to risk, to fail; but not fail so much it negatively affects student success. In addition, we have various ways to assess, but only after we break down what assessment is for, who it’s for, and what we’ll be doing with the data.
It’s enough to make your head swim.
When things begin to spin out of control, I need to get back to the basics. What is the main idea? (not to be confused with the BIG idea) What do I want my students to leave my school knowing? And that’s the rub. Is knowing enough? What about feeling, doing, being?
The biggest change I’ve noticed since my career began is that students are less uni-dimensional and more multi-dimensional. The external has changed considerably, yet I’m not convinced that at their core kids are much different than the kids we were. Certainly we’ve added disorders to our list of diagnoses in some cases pathologizing behaviours that used to be in the annoying/difficult-to-deal with category. Technology has exploded making communication instantaneous, something those of us who remember party-lines didn’t have to navigate through in our youth. The pressure to succeed academically has increased, along with the range of learning difficulties. Even with those changes I’d argue that kids still have the same basic needs we had. Their range of feelings haven’t expanded, although their freedom to express those feelings certainly has. Kids can be as kind, caring, angry, and hurtful as they’ve always been. What’s changed is the impact zone of those behaviours, which is a discussion for another day. Bottom line for me: kids still need to belong in order to succeed.
How do we meet the basic needs of our students coupled with the challenging evolution of their external world? Or more concisely how do I keep MY school meaningful.
And here’s my broken record.
For my school to stay relevantly meaningful, students must know they are welcome and have a place in our building. No matter what, we are glad they are with us.
I want our students to be safe. Safe to succeed, safe to take risks.
I want them to: read at their level when they move on to middle school; know their basic math facts with reasonable fluency; be able to write a coherent story WITH correct punctuation. The basic 3 R’s!
Alongside the academics, I want our students to: experience kindness – in the giving and the getting; practice generosity; consider their feelings along with the feelings of others; create; know hope is theirs to own.
When students leave our school, I want them to be more equipped for the next step of their unique journey then when they started.
Oh yeah, one more thing: After it’s all done for a year, I want them – students as well as staff – to WANT to come back for more.
Lofty goals. You bet. Doable? We’re working on it every single day.
As always I believe, Better is Possible