My oldest daughter is spending her third summer at the local pool, life guarding and teaching swimming lessons. She has become quite enamored with an almost-four year old in one of her classes, and has stories about him almost every day. A couple comments she made yesterday were a-ha moments for her, and I think they are good reminders to many adults.
My daughter was somewhat surprised by how developed the little guy’s personality and opinions were as a three year old. After telling a story about how he had reacted to a situation, she commented, “It’s really important to talk to them [kids] like they’re people, because they have a lot going on.”
That particular comment made me think about how often we discount students and what they’re thinking and feeling, because “they’re just kids”. Think of all the decisions we make for our students – where they sit, how they work, who they work with, what they learn – without ever asking their input. And then we wonder why they don’t develop independence and critical thinking skills.
As I prepare for a new group of kindergarten students, I’m spending much of my time thinking about how to give them voice in their learning and life at school. Inquiry activities related to their interests will be a focus, as will choice making during centres, and the choices they will make about what to add to their digital portfolios.
I’m also committed to advocating for students in the school in general – in the kinds of recess and other policies we establish for our students. How can we include them in any problem-solving that needs to happen?
For so long, education has been “doing” something to students. We need to change our thinking and recognize that student input is essential. We need to treat them “like people, because they have a lot going on.” In most cases, they know what they need better than we do. We just need to get better at listening.