Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Could you last a day in your students' shoes?

by Kirsten Fletcher

As teachers, I think we sometimes run the risk of becoming so absorbed in our daily tasks that we lose sight of how our students receive our carefully crafted lessons.  At the beginning of the school year, I read a powerful blog post by Grant Wiggins about a High School Learning Coach whose principal recommended that she spend 2 days in her students' shoes. When she tried it, she was surprised at how absolutely exhausting it was to sit and listen, take notes and tests, work at someone else's pace all day, and never move.

A few weeks ago, I got my own glimpse into my students' lives when I asked them to write a bilingual poem about their own identity. Some wrote light-hearted poems about pop tarts or their favorite band. Others expressed, in a few bilingual lines, how heartbreaking it is to not qualify for scholarships or college admissions. One of my students submitted the following poem outlining a day in her life.

I'm embarrassed to say that I am sometimes so concerned about writing my lesson plans, posting grades, preparing for my observation, keeping up with my PLN, and completing all my "teacher" duties, that I forget the impact that all my daily decisions have on the lives of my students.

Seeing school and home responsibilities through my student's eyes has made me seriously consider the amount of homework I'm giving on a daily basis. Seeing her express her anxiety over losing points for late work makes me think twice about docking points for student work. Realizing that my students aren't getting any more sleep than I am makes me want to cut them some slack when they don't say "Bonjour" back to me or when they grunt in response to my well-intentioned "Ça va?".

Most of all, I'm grateful to have students who are willing to share their experiences with me, and I continue to strive to deserve their confidence.  I've learned that I need to make more time to listen to what they need if I'm going to teach them anything. Thank you to my amazing students for this valuable reminder. Merci!

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