A Celebration of Student Learning – In Spite of the “Educationese” Lullaby We Sing!
Do you ever find that the rhetoric we use relentlessly in education to try to tell our story or explain a preferred learning environment for our students start to blend together in a cacophony of sound – with a recognizable and comfortable rhythm – until the meaning is lost? Do we observe, talk with and about students to learn from their day-to-day experiences, or are we being lulled into a comfortable state of knowing without knowing – really? Have you attended recent presentations and conferences only to have the speaker speak the familiar lullaby that leads you toward an altered state? I have – and it concerns me deeply! Thus the title of this blah blah blog.
We hear a lot about Personalized Learning, especially in the context of the 21st Century skills students need in a highly technological and advanced knowledge-based society. (A familiar tune, no doubt?) What we don’t do enough is celebrate the wonder of every day in the lives of so many of our students. Nor do we adequately draw upon our observations of our students to inform and teach the profession about who these young people are, and how they seek to learn.
I believe we don’t adequately celebrate the success of our teachers and staff who have broken barriers, negotiated their way through formidable structures that impede progress, and who quietly stand in the shadow of each student’s success.
Recently I have had the pleasure of attending a number of Grad Transition Presentations, and Scholarship Presentations. These events have provided me with the opportunity to see amazing young people – who have achieved beyond anything they could have imagined for themselves. Each and every student I have gotten to know has teachers and caregivers standing in the background cheering silently – and sometimes not so silently – for them.
Interestingly, not one of the students I have observed and with whom I have spoken has completed their public school education in the industrial and lock-step manner that apparently dominates our schools. This tells me that teachers and caregivers are working with our students to personalize the learning experience. Some examples?
- A burgeoning artist and incredibly accomplished young lady who had worked since the age of seven with local artists to develop a passion and talent that has formed the foundation for her future choices. She is completing Secondary School a year early and will take a gap year before pursuing her post-secondary goals – she completed some of her course work online, and some of her work at school. Isn’t this a “blended learning environment?”
- A young man, shuffled from foster home to foster home, spoke of finding a family and learning to make decisions that would make his life better – he worked in an alternate setting until he felt ready to take his classes at the secondary school;
- A provincial champion welding student spoke of completing secondary school while working toward his apprenticeship requirements;
- A student who wants to be a sound engineer but recognizes the enormous cost of that career choice, chose to pursue another passion of cosmetology and will complete school with both a Dogwood, and a profession that would help earn money to support post secondary education goals toward becoming a sound engineer;
- A visually impaired student, independently negotiating the stage at graduation to receive her Dogwood.
Are we there yet? No. Why? Because the images of personalization I have shared aren’t the lived experience of each and every student in our schools. However, it is these images, and the conversations we have with these students, and our observations of their generation, that will inform us regarding how to get there – even though we don’t really know where “there” is.
We have to stop singing the lull-aby – and we need to start giving meaning back, by placing action with our words, our hopes, and our aspirations for today’s students and the students of the future. As educators, we need to put the melody back into our song. We need to celebrate our students, their parents and caregivers, our staff and our communities.
Congratulations to our schools who have been working so valiantly on behalf of our incredible youth. Thank you!
To our students – please keep inviting us into your song!