This morning, a fellow educator and friend of mine, Jonathan So, tweeted me this link to his recent blog post. There’s a lot to consider in this post, and contrary to what I usually do, I didn’t comment right away. I thought. This afternoon, I posted this comment, which may almost be as long as the post itself.
Jonathan’s reply made me realize that I needed to do more than reply again, but instead, write this post of my own.
I totally understand what Jonathan is saying here, and in so many ways, I agree with his sentiments. Here’s the problem though: when I read this line, “As a teacher I have had to give up control, and let go of that “Oh I could have used that 40 minutes to cover curriculum” feeling.,” my heart started to beat faster. Am I okay with these sentiments? That’s when I thought back to this post that I wrote on The MEHRIT Centre blog, and my question of, what constitutes curriculum?
I think that my biggest struggle is that as much as I may know that …
- relationships matter the most,
- students need to feel safe and loved in order to learn,
- school is about more than just academics,
- mental health and well-being matters both for adults and for children, and we can impact each other: positively and negatively,
- our new Board vision has “positive culture and well-being” as its first priority,
how do we put academics second? I’m a Kindergarten teacher, and with our new program document, we have more open-ended expectations than probably any other grade. I’m lucky to work at a school with children that have supportive parents, diverse life experiences, strong oral language skills, a solid understanding of texts and how they communicate messages to others, an interest in writing, many opportunities to play with numbers, and a genuine interest in math and its connection to the real world. These students amaze me every day with what they say and do. I know that I don’t need to be worried about school or Board benchmarks in reading, writing, or math, and yet …
- do I always try to push a connection to reading, writing, or math, even if one does not naturally exist?
- do I capture more “academic” moments because I think that they may be more well-received than the self-regulation ones?
- do I question if colleagues, administrators, or parents wonder if I read enough with students, write enough with them, and provide enough direct instruction?
- do I try to always make parallels to expectations because I worry if others will see and think as I do?
We can believe that relationships matter the most. We say say that relationships matter the most. But how do we consistently put this as our top priority in our classrooms, and how do we keep it there even if our test scores slip? I know that scores aren’t everything, and like Jonathan, I wonder how successful we’d be at meeting the scores if we didn’t work on some of these relationships first. I’m lucky to work with an amazing teaching partner that believes strongly in the power of these connections, and continues to support, encourage, and inspire me along the way. I’m not going to let go of …
and our many classroom times talking with, listening to, and playing with students. I know they make a difference. Maybe though, in the coming months, as I work on my new one word goal (“perspective”), I’ll get better at readily capturing and sharing these times, and not always being concerned about those academic links. What do you think: in a world of “benchmarks,” can relationships in the classroom truly come first, and if so, what do we need in place for this to happen?