I knew this year was going to be hard. I knew that I wanted to take risks, innovate, and try new things. I knew that many people would have different perspectives and opinions about what I was doing. I knew that I would have to stand up for my beliefs, my philosophy and what was happening in the classroom. I knew that I would probably have to explain myself… justify myself… defend myself…
I just didn’t know my students would have to as well.
Today one of my students was chatting with me at recess and sharing his frustration that many people think all we do is play.
“Miss, it is not okay that they think all we do is play all day because we do a lot of learning and they don’t think we do. It’s not fair.”
I tried to sympathize with his frustration and tell him that we can feel confident in the amazing learning that takes place in our class and that I know what it feels like to be misunderstood. The he told me something very interesting.
“Miss, it’s not only students who misunderstand us, it’s also teachers.”
… oh really!? Tell me more about that!
“I was walking to the library with myself and a teacher stopped me and asked where I was going. I told her I was going to the library. She asked my name. I told her. She asked who my teacher was and I told her. When she found out I was in Miss Taryn’s class, she asked if we actually ever do any learning in there. So I told her, yes we do so much learning. Then she asked what we were learning about it. I told her we were learning about relationships and perspectives. Then she asked if all we are learning about is relationships and perspectives how are we doing any math. So I told her were learning about perspectives and relationships in math. Like how everyone has a different perspective when solving problem and that numbers and shapes are connected in many ways.”
Then a different student who was sitting close by chimed in…
“Yeah, the exact same thing happened to me! I was walking in the hall and a teacher stopped me and asked my name and my teacher. When they found out I was in Miss Taryn’s class they also asked if we ever did any learning. So I told her we do a lot of learning. She asked about what. I told her about relationships and perspectives. She asked if we were learning any knowledge. I told her we were learning so much knowledge like relationships that happen in nature, human relationships, perspectives in art, how technology affects relationships and more!”
I can’t remember a time where I felt more proud of my students. Not only are they able to understand our approach to learning, but they are able to advocate for it, and defend it! When confronted by a teacher, they were able to explain our concept-based approach to acquiring knowledge. They were able to point out the transdisciplinary way that we have been approaching math and literacy. And most importantly they were able to be critical thinkers and confidently share an opinion different from an authority figure in a respectful, but self-assued way.
They might not get us…. but we definitely get us!
The initial frustration at being misunderstood by students and teachers has turned into a class inside-joke. Now my students kid with one another and me by saying “we don’t learn anything”, “no learning in Miss Taryn’s class”, “all we do is play all day”.
The cherry on top (as if it could get any better!) was a student who came up to me after this conversation and said…
“Miss I’ve been thinking. What are the point of grades? They are just letters and numbers – but it’s so hard to make a letter or number that measures our learning. I think I’m going to write a blog post about it to share my perspective on this issue.”
My school’s mission focuses on creating critical thinkers and contributing world citizens. Check and check.
… even if that comes at the cost of being misunderstood and misrepresented…
we can take it.