Dear Students, Parents and Guardians,
Throughout the year teachers are constantly sharing what they know with students, learning from students and assessing what students learned. However, rarely do I find (or, more accurately, make) the time to think about and share what I learned. I want to get in the habit of doing that. So, similar to last year, I took some time to record my reflections from the year:
· Students can investigate really big, important questions. I was consistently taken aback by how students were able to explore essential questions that adults are contemplating today—What makes a society just? What role should the government play in the economy? Students discussed, debated and thought about these questions for weeks this year. Next year, I would like to challenge students further by exploring deep questions earlier in the year while introducing them to a greater variety of thinkers who have attempted to answer the same questions.
· Students perform really well for real people: This year, students wrote and commented on blogs more extensively than any of my previous years. When students wrote for an audience of their peers and the community they took more pride in the quality of their writing than when they were just writing for me. An audience of peers and community members is more authentic than one adult with a grading pen. Students can produce higher quality work when they are performing for a real, authentic audience.
· Students can self-facilitate sophisticated discussions: This year we tried a new format for some our discussions called Harkness discussions. In this format, students themselves would be responsible for creating different types of questions and facilitating the discussion while their peers (and teacher!) simply watched and listened. They learned to listen to each other more closely, share their opinions more freely than when I took the responsibility for leading the discussions. Students analyzed issues like globalization and iPad factories from more ethical and social perspectives than I could have guided them towards. Given the right training and preparation, students themselves can gain more meaning from a text and discuss key issues than when only I am directing them. It’s amazing!
· Technology is a tool but can also be a barrier: Students used tools like Google Docs and Evernote to organizer their research and find resources using advanced search on library databases. They realized that there are many valid sources of knowledge beyond their teacher and textbook. However, we also experienced that being in front of a laptop sometimes discouraged discussion and collaboration. In fact, our best discussions were when we simply we sat in a circle with an interesting printed text. Next year, I hope to use technology to help students access information while also putting our laptops away to encourage students to learn from and question each other more.Students can gain a wealth of knowledge through technology but real people encourage them to make sense of it all and challenge their thinking.
Thank you for a wonderful year and teaching me so much! If I can ever be of assistance in the future please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Sincerely your teacher and student,