For people who know me, it’s no surprise that I love coffee. While I always have a large mug of coffee at home, I also always stop for a coffee on the way to work. When I was at my previous school, I always stopped at the Starbucks up the street because I could park in the lot and walk in. This year though, I changed schools, and the Starbucks on my way to work doesn’t have a parking lot out front. At 6:15 in the morning, I don’t feel comfortable walking through an alleyway to get to it. And so, the change in schools also prompted another change: I go to the drive thru to get my coffee. This may not seem like a big deal to many of you, but you need to know that up until this year, I never went through a drive thru. Why? With my visual spatial needs, I struggled with pulling my car close enough to the window to reach the coffee, but still pull out safely. This coffee change then, prompted new learning for me.
- I had to find landmarks that were part of the drive thru area to help me know when to turn and where to stop.
- I had to get my coffee money ready before I left the house, so that I could help avoid too much multi-tasking.
- I had to give myself a script in my head, so that I could make it through the drive thru process with ease and ensure that I did all of the required steps.
As I was waiting for my coffee yesterday morning, I realized how much more comfortable I’m becoming with this drive thru process and how big a change this is for me. This process actually helped me make a connection to classroom learning: growth is really defined by the individual learners.
I know that we have curriculum documents, lists of expectations, and achievement charts, but I also know that no matter what the expectations may be for a given grade level, we have to teach the learners in front of us. Those learners also deserve a chance to celebrate their successes, even if they aren’t always meeting year-end benchmarks. Yesterday, we were creating “thank yous” for Lee Academy, after hosting a Play Day for us. Here’s what I saw as I conferenced with different students:
- A child that was not even recognizing his name at the beginning of the year, wrote a couple of complete sentences (using familiar words and some letter-sounds) all on his own.
- Children that were only writing one or two simple sentences back in September, wrote multiple sentences expressing their thoughts. Many of these sentences also veered from the pattern type ones and contained the use of appropriate conventions.
- Children were “telling stories” through their picture and word choice. They were not just saying, “thank you,” but looking at what they did and what they learned.
- Children were independently writing, creating, and orally recording ideas. Yes, they came to me, but really just when they were ready to share/publish their work.
- Children invested additional time into doing their work and ensured that it was their “best work.” At the beginning of the year, it was a struggle for some students to focus on a given task for 5 minutes. Most students yesterday, spent an engaged, 30-40 minutes on this single task.
Would all of the completed work be “at grade level?” No. But did all of the work show significant improvements since September? Yes. And not only did I notice this growth, but the students commented on it as well. They were proud of what they did and how far they’ve come.
I can’t help but think back to Jonathan So‘s blog post that I read earlier this week. In it, he talks about the current job action in Ontario and the lack of report card distribution. Now in our Board, report cards will be going out, but with just marks on them. Let’s look for a minute at the idea of no, or highly modified, report cards. Every day, all year long, parents and students are seeing work, hearing recordings, and viewing videos of student learning and thinking. They’re seeing the student work and the feedback that is going home. They’re talking to me about student progress and next steps. A report card doesn’t offer anything new, and in fact, it’s all of this regular sharing, that really provides the best feedback of all.
Going back to my initial drive thru example, could a report card really capture my drive thru learning? Is it even an expectation for a person of my age? Or would it be the growth noted through my daily drive thru visits that would ultimately show how much I’ve learned? I think it’s this regular documentation that matters the most. It’s through this that you can see strengths, weaknesses, progress, and goals for each individual child. The report card is just that final paper. It’s that “process of learning” that I think matters the most, and that’s always available here. What do you think? How do you share this ongoing learning with parents?