One day, my students were deep into their inquiry work. One boy wandered over to me. He told me that he was sorry to have gotten off track, but that he was looking into wood extraction and the search somehow took him to a page about his ancestral country of Pakistan. He wanted to show me some beautiful landscape images of the country. We chatted about it for a few minutes.
Then he said, "That's my favourite part about this class."
Unclear about what he meant, I replied, "What's your favourite part about this class?"
"That I can talk so much about where my family originates, Pakistan." He answered.
This coming from a kid who had learned how to code on scratch, created videos, engaged in drama activities, design challenges, built a game for Genius Hour, started a blog, and played with circuits.
I would have guessed that one of those things might be his highlight about our classroom.
I was wrong. His favourite part about our class was that we talked about our stories, we celebrated our identities, and took time to do that.
I believe in empowering students.
I want to learn about new technologies, new ways for students to express themselves. I want to take my learning about how to integrate arts education deeper. I want to inspire kids to tell stories in different ways, to dive into Project Based Learning, Thinking classroom, outdoor education, Integrative and Design Thinking, Knowledge Building, and make everything we do in our classroom authentic.
The more I learn about innovative teaching practices though, the more I want to dive into the work of equity.
I see the two as going hand in hand. Students will never feel empowered unless they feel heard, unless they feel valued, unless they feel welcomed into a safe space everyday. A space where they can truly be themselves, take creative risks, speak their opinions without judgement. If we as teachers are going to empower our learners, it is AS much about the culture that we create in our classrooms, as it is about innovative teaching practices.
The work of equity, exploring Indigenous Perspectives, building relationships, listening to our students' stories, meeting the needs of our learners, and building safe school cultures needs to lay the foundation for innovation and student empowerment.
My students taught me this.
One day in my grade seven class last year something happened in the room.
I went in that day thinking it was not going to be a good one. Rainy days, double indoor recesses can be rough in Elementary school!
After the break, students were yawning, and itching to get outside. I wasn’t sure if it was a good move or not, but I pushed ahead and had them set up the space to continue on the inquiry we’d been working through, which was part of a larger Project Based Learning experience. I didn’t think it would go well. I couldn’t feel the energy in the room, and today, I didn’t have the energy either. It took quite awhile for students to start their investigations, I had to give some reminders to a few to make good choices, people were asking to take walking breaks early into the period, it didn’t feel great.
Then, something shifted.