For the past one and a half school years, as the use of technology as a teaching tool exploded, the issues of equity and differentiated learning have been served up in every conversation. The umbrella under which these practices lie in personalized learning. We all agree that learning is a highly individual endeavor. This summer, my independent study is to unpack this idea of personalized learning, reassess my practice, and adapt to suit.
In addition to my readings, this summer, I asked myself, “Was there a common denominator among my most successful classes?” The answer is, “Yes!” First, I’ll note that the classes I believe were my best classes, weren’t all the ones for which I received the best letter grades. The classes in which I excelled were the classes in which I felt confident – I was aware of my strengths and challenges regarding the content. I also felt emotionally connected in those classes. I wasn’t just a student, there was a partnership among the students, and between the students and the teacher. I felt seen, heard and valued by the teachers in my classes. Finally, all of these classes had what James Nottingham, in his book The Learning Challenge, calls the learning pit. There were challenging questions, collaboration, time to think, confusion, more collaboration and exploration until ownership of knowledge was achieved. That’s true learning!
As I begin to think about the new school year, I want to make sure that I am working in partnership with my students to foster the best learning environment possible. What does an equitable classroom look like, feel like, and sound like? Here are the hallmarks with which I will begin.
- An environment built on a mindset that welcomes diversity and difference
- Tools and strategies that foster emotional awareness
- Tools and strategies that foster social awareness
- Well-structured lessons that allow for autonomy and purposeful action on the part of students
- Time to play, engage, interact, and share
- Time to process, reflect on, and learn from mistakes and challenges