Monday, August 6, 2012
The New, True 3 R's in Education: Preparing to Start a New School Year
The key to maximizing a learning experience? Relationship, relationship, relationship. Ask someone to describe a successful learning experience in their past. Watch them hesitate and then smile. Watch the comfort and enjoyment they show as they proceed to confidently tell you what they learned, how they learned, how they felt during and about the experience, and how positive they are about the people involved in the learning experience including themselves! Watch the joy they exhibit as they relive the experience and the way the memories of it make them feel. See the energy flow as they share with you the details of their challenge and success with learning. The memorable learning experiences we have usually involve an accomplishment that was significant and required focus and effort often involving new knowledge and new skills. In describing our successful learning experience we often share about relationships. In some stories it will be about the relationship that we developed with a teacher, coach or guide. Because we trusted the teacher at some point in the experience, we were able to overcome or overproduce in reaching our goal. In some stories, it will be about the relationship that we developed with other participants. We certainly remember whom we were with when we summited the 14,000+ foot mountain peak! In some stories it will be about the relationship that we had with ourself. We pushed ourself further than we thought possible or we proved to ourself that we could or we pursued inspiration and achieved. There are no more important aspects of a teacher's classroom to prepare for at the start of a new school year or to look towards during the school year when a teacher feels a tension in her classroom than those of relationships. Teacher to Student: Students intuitively sense the attitude and energy a teacher has for them. Students will reflect that attitude and energy back to the teacher in return. If the teacher is positive, prepared, present, and polite, the students are most likely to respond to that modeling. Students can detect honesty and integrity and are eager to find those qualities in a teacher. They are hoping as they enter the classroom that their teacher will be patient, kind, and a worthy guide. Students want to be successful with new and challenging learning experiences. They will respond to trust and to worthy and appropriate challenge when they are provided with structure, autonomy, and interconnectedness. Student to Student: For some students, learning is seen as direct engagement between student and the teacher or the student and the curriculum. For many students, learning is expedited when they can learn with and from other students. In a classroom where the structure assures students of academic, social, and emotional safety during all risk-taking events, students benefit from learning from each other, from reflecting on their understanding and progress as compared with others, and from becoming teachers themselves as they help others with the new learning experiences, knowledge, and skills. Student to Self: Motivation, responsibility, accountability, sense of progress, momentum, discipline towards learning new knowledge and skills - there are many aspects impacting learning that are directly influenced by the student's personal sense, expectations, and habits as a learner and as a person. All of these are variables that can be influenced during the school year by the teacher, by other students, by the expectations of the classroom, and/or by the maturity and development of the student himself. Relationships are definitely important factors that impact student achievement that are worthy of the teacher's conscious consideration and planning. Developing supportive conditions for positive relationships does not come at the expense of rigor and high expectations for learning. Relationships provide an important and essential foundation for the learning that will occur. The attention the teacher gives to the importance of relationships will influence and go hand in hand with the structure the teacher creates regarding classroom management rules and procedures and the amount and qualities of the autonomy that will be offered to students. Structure, involvement within relationships, and autonomy are the three legs of the stool that will optimize the chance that this year will be one of those successful learning experiences that the student will recall when in the future they are asked to describe a successful learning experience they have had.