I love feedback. I truly and genuinely appreciate it when someone challenges my thinking and causes me to reflect on what I believe and the actions I choose to take. Last week I spoke to over sixty educators about the innovative changes the Surrey School District is implementing around learning and assessment. This is a topic I am very passionate about and my enthusiasm was quite obvious. After the presentation I was impressed by the positive feedback I received through conversations, emails and tweets. It is wonderful that I was able to inspire and motivate so many teachers looking to shift their practice. The most enlightening conversation I had, however, came yesterday from a teacher attending an inquiry meeting with several colleagues where I was asked to speak about ePortfolios with FreshGrade. This particular teacher approached me and asked me “is it always so positive, are we only assessing the good things kids do, what about the disruptive behaviour?” He went on to share with me that although he enjoyed my previous presentation he and several other male teachers (he said it, not me) felt I was only promoting how we can more effectively showcase a child’s growth and did not speak to tracking a child’s limitations or poor behaviour. Okay, this is a valid point and an issue facing many classroom teachers. I went on to explain that I believed in the initial phase of a powerful shift such as replacing summary reports with ongoing collaborative ePortfolios, focusing on the positive is more engaging. Furthermore, opening communication with parents in a relevant and timely fashion will give teachers the ability to relay whatever they feel is necessary and significant.
This conversation has caused me much reflection, and from it, I am more compelled to make the shift (my term for transforming the learning experience for every student through personalized ePortfolios built on formative assessment). I am more motivated because I see the possibilities so clearly and they are incredible.
Consider a world where students are not following a dated, generic list of prescribed learning outcomes that may or may not have any relevance for them.
Consider a world where we do not take a population of curious, playful and engaged humans and force them through the funnel of school where they are told what to learn and by what time in their life to learn it.
Consider a world where we foster each individual for the gifts they bring and encourage them to take ownership in their own education.
Consider a world where students are given options, choice and their individual interests are respected.
Consider a world where we do not judge a persons worth and ability by how they compare to a peer, a world where children actually want to learn because they are not stifled by stress around grades and tests.
Essentially consider the possibilities if we, as teachers can actually do what we signed up for when we chose this career. It took me many years to realize there was a possibility beyond what I thought I had to do. The report card template was just part of my job and I did not question it for years because I did not realize there were other options. I am so thankful that we now have options with the research and technology to support it.
As a teacher, I will not be proud and feel like I did a good job if all of my students become doctors and lawyers. I will be proud if all of my students help to create a world that is better than the one we live in today. There are many teachers who have established classrooms based on the considerations above. I wonder how many behaviour issues they are dealing with? I believe that if we open the doors and support our students in a way that lets each of them feel successful we will significantly decrease classroom behaviour. Is it possible that an off task child is simply bored and frustrated, could it be the task and not the child? We are living in a dynamic and fast paced world. When the classroom is the exact opposite, what do we actually expect? So I invite all teachers struggling with significant behaviour and lack of interest to consider the possibilities, work towards making a shift and see what happens. I believe the change will be profound, not only for students and parents but for teachers as well.