Sunday, December 16, 2018

Give All Students A Voice

I have been listening to the sessions from Matt Miller's yearly summit called "Ditch That Textbook"-#ditchsummit . The first session this year was from a man named Ken Shelton. He spoke about a lot of inspiring things-but what stuck with me was his advice to give every student in your class a voice. That often we value participation and those students who speak up to answer questions, when every student in the class has something to share. So with the tech tools available today, he has his students respond to questions on Google docs and checks in with all of them that way.

I think this really stuck with me because I was that student. I always was a good student. I always did my homework and paid attention in class. However, I sat in the back and never raised my hand to participate. My family decided that it was a fear of failure-I think I just didn't have confidence in my abilities. In 10th Grade my teacher suggested that I take the AP English class. I was surrounded by students who had been in GT classes their whole lives and felt like I was not good enough to be there.

But my teacher saw something else. She would frequently read my test essay answers to the class as an example of what she was looking for. Those answers were nothing special, but she wanted me to know I was just as good as these other students. One day she asked me to stay after class. I was terrified but quickly found out that she just had advice for me. She told me to participate more. That in college that was how I was going to make friends. I would answer a question and people would come up after class to agree or disagree. Whatever her reasons for doing this-it meant a lot to me. This was almost 30 years ago and I still remember that conversation. She didn't write me off just because I wasn't one of the star students.

I was speaking to my sister recently about her 4 year old. He started Pre-K this year and it's their first child so she always has questions. When she met with his teacher she said that her son is very quiet-she wishes he would speak up more. She also relayed a story about how he picked up the dinosaur counters and was asking her the names of them. The teacher scoffed that she didn't know. In my opinion here was a missed opportunity. She could have engaged him in conversations about dinosaurs-used those stories in their read-alouds.

I try to make sure I have a conversation with each student one-on-one every day. I ask them questions about their families, their interests and I remember what they tell me. Yes, it's great when students often participate and become part of the discussion, but that doesn't mean the others have nothing to say. We just have to find a way to still give those students a voice.

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