...because they are inspired by their education, not in spite of it. To do that, we must learn to unlearn; to step out of our socio-temporal context and view our practise through the lens of our learners.
A colleague said he knew he was on the right path with his classroom culture when his Grade 5 students sat him down and, with great care to spare his feelings, requested that he stop eating Som Tam (a completely delicious, garlic-laden Thai salad) for lunch every day.
One of the most crushing things I’ve witnessed was a teacher who started with a routine to promote student voice in her classroom, getting the students to complete the sentence ‘I wish my teacher knew…’. One of her students wrote ‘I wish my teacher knew that the work she gives me is too easy for me.’ The teacher’s response to the student? ‘No, it isn’t.’
We need to confront our practise through the lens of our students. Are we comfortable with students having a voice only if that voice echoes our own opinions and vision of ourselves as practitioners? How can we avoid conditioning students to say ‘the sorts of things they think teachers are looking for’ (What Ed Said: What does student ownership look like?), and develop a critical culture in our classrooms?
Primary teachers in particular are often lavished with affection and praise by our students. It’s easy to interpret this as a sign that we are doing a good job by them. We need to move towards a culture of respect through mutual and open acknowledgement of successes and areas for further improvement. My ambition is to create an environment in which students can think, learn and be engaged by new ideas, and be inspired to take action and to create positive change. To do that, I need them to feel comfortable saying ‘Miss Goyder, this activity is not really engaging or challenging me, could we try this instead?’ or ‘Miss Goyder, could we take a 2-minute break to discuss as a group how we could make this task more interactive?’.
We need to ask, we need to listen, we need to acknowledge, and we need to act.