July 3, 2017

Student-Led Learning: Connect with EVERYONE!

Everyone wants a connection... a spark wants to ignite anything it can to continue to burn.  With Student-Led Learning, it is the same thing.  Fearless Learner's authors Sutton and Westberry are quick to point this out in Step 4: Connect!  

As I read this step, I happened to be attending an inservice where we learned an AWESOME technique by Dr. Larry Chew!  Honestly, it is a BRILLIANT method of learning and requires specific student interaction, one that allows for trust in a student centered classroom.  We also focused on the 5 E's, which fit perfectly into Dr. Chew's technique.  To me, it was a no brainer to put this into the lesson we were required to write with other teachers for other teachers in the inservice and the district itself.  If you put together the requirements of the inservice into your output to prove you were there-YOU WIN!  Yet, neither one of the teachers I was working with would consider including this technique at first.  One clearly stated, "I know the kind of kid I work with and they could NEVER do that!"  "They could NEVER do that, or you couldn't lead them to do that!" was what I thought-because that's what it really comes down to!  WE decide how our classrooms are run.  WE decide how much of "ME" we put out there and how much of "YOU" we allow!  And this is exactly what the authors point out.  We must be prepared, as we examine this model for the reality of having other teachers be negative and judgmental about what we are doing.  We must be prepared, and proactive, in helping administrators understand.  It starts with us.  Gather a friend or two to walk this journey with you!  You will need them.  Although I am writing this blog solo, I am working with three other teachers at my school and one other teacher from another school.  The five of us set up our own social media page where we can share and discuss beyond the school day because we all know there is no time.  We are working to build a community where there is "safety" in numbers!  Find your tribe at your school and try it out!  

In addition to connecting with professionals, I can agree wholeheartedly with the authors on the relationships you will build with students and parents.  I love the idea they share of connecting with parents through a set of promises (see page 141) and I plan to develop that in my Back-to-School Brochure.  Build that team work into your connection with them.  It is going to be key!  And the students!  Be prepared to know them like you never have before!  When I have used this model in the past in math, I knew the ins and outs of every kid.  I could look at their work and know what steps they were missing.  I knew strengths and weaknesses and holes!  I could remediate on the spot-literally-and never have a student miss a beat!  From the highest student to the lowest student-I knew them all-and, more importantly, they knew me, could come with a question for me, could trust me AND their other classmates.  It was wonderful, and I'm so looking forward to that again.  Plus, both authors point out-and I can back up-that their test scores rose!  I can clearly remember my two ESE students scores when they came back the first year I used a similar model to this one in my classroom.  They had both gone up a whole level-and it was the second year I had them!  So, the only thing that changed (little did I realize then) was that they were involved in a student-led learning model!  

So, I stand with Sutton and Westberry and call to you to FIND YOUR TRIBE, build those relationships with parents, and get ready for the best relationship with your students you have ever had!  Let me know what you think in the comments section or leave any tips or ideas you have!  I'd love to hear them!

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