I have just one resolution for 2016: honor the understanding that every student learns differently.
As educators, we know that kids learn differently. But, how often do we truly honor this in our work with students?
In independent schools, our central promise has gone a long way to this end. Students in our schools know that their teachers care about their learning and success; teachers build authentic relationships with students, and students respond well to this individual attention and support. Moreover, our schools are tremendous at offering expansive opportunities in and out of the classroom; challenging students to reach beyond perceived limitations; and supporting students in their growth.
But, how can we build on this legacy in new ways to personalize the learning process and become even more understanding that every student learns differently?
It seems to me that do so, as educators we have to do something that is typically outside of our comfort zone – and hence a perfect long-term, year-long resolution! – we have got to become more comfortable giving up control in our classrooms.
Students know better than we do what motivates them, what excites them, and what stands in their way. And yet, they do not have all of the skills necessary to always act in their best interest. We will need to help students understand how they learn, and to equip students with the capabilities to assess their strengths, challenges, goals, learning preferences, and motivations.
Once they have those skills, we then have to give greater agency to them in the classroom by offering real choice and understanding that students learn at different paces. Increased choice in the learning process leads to increase engagement; and engaged students learn more and love learning more.
That’s my goal for the year: work to build our program in a way that honors that every student learns differently. What’s your resolution?
Brad Rathgeber, Executive Director