My first year of college, I enrolled in a freshman support group of sorts. One of the requirements was to take a student development course on building a sense of community. The main mentor text in this endeavor was Paul Fleischman’s Seedfolks.
Seems innocuous enough, right? I really like Paul Fleischman, too. But I hated that course, and as a result, I also disliked the book.
Looking back, I can more clearly pinpoint why. It was the pressure to conform, to pretend inspiration in order to feel a sense of belonging.
Sometimes, an approach, text, or training might dazzle most but not all; when that happens, does it lead to blame or shame or even exclusion? Are labels applied like “not a team player” or “not fully invested,” when the truth sounds more like, “Still thinking about this application” or “Stressed about my massive inbox right now.”
This applies just as much for teachers during professional development as it does for students during back-to-school icebreaker games.
Adding a large dose of agency to our approach (actual agency, not the pretend kind — a concept that Doug Robertson nailed in a post a few months ago), is a great way to move away from this sense of in-group/out-group. It also conveys that you trust teachers and students to find their unique way forward, which ultimately leads to greater success.
“It’s great to be successful. It’s even better to make sure you followed your own distinctive, and not necessarily always obvious, path to the success that can truly fulfill you.”
How we can show our teachers and students that we are as open-minded as we hope they will be? How can we help co-define & construct success? How can we promote an atmosphere of agency in our learning?
A few resources below might provide some ideas to help all participants find inspiration!
- 14 Ways to Differentiate Professional Development by John Spencer
- Student Agency Resources by Taryn BondClegg
- Important Questions to Ask Your Students via Edutopia
featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto