A Rejuvenating Chat
Inspiration ignites when least expected. There are no boundaries to how, where or when individuals connect and harness the power to influence others. One of the most rewarding aspects of facilitating learners is having the opportunity to exchange thoughts, ask questions and in return receive insight into their line of thinking. When implementing a socratic approach, conversations and experiences can shift and take unexpected paths. As I recently walked with a small group of young ladies at recess, I was truly moved by the conversation that transpired within our twenty minute chat. The important elements of time and choice repeated themselves as these inquisitive eleven year olds responded to my simple question: “In what ways did you grow as writers this morning?”
Within our learning environment, our fifth graders have devoted much of their time composing memoirs where they learned a life lesson from a challenge they overcame. Throughout the process of drafting, they were expected to align their personal narrative with the five parts of plot and select attributes that supported them throughout this time period. While reflecting on their journey, they connected a quote from the recently read novel, Wonder. Being that within any learning environment, diversity in style, ability and stamina varies, one can imagine that a great deal of time was provided for our writers to think and craft their personal thoughts. To my surprise, the gift of time in which they were given was noticed and appreciated.
In response to my inquiry, the girls eagerly shared their excitement about the writing pieces they were composing. They spoke about the benefits of having a significant amount of time needed to think, write, edit and depict their thoughts. With excitement, they commented on how important it was that they were able to choose the central ideas for their unique memoirs. With all their enthusiasm, I was taken back when they admitted that in the past they never really enjoyed reading or writing. One of the girls told me she never before considered herself to be smart or very good at writing. Hearing them speak in this manner disheartened me as I thought about how critical the primary years are in connection to building strong foundations and fostering a love for learning. When asked why they had a negative view of academics, their answers were very clear and direct. It was simply because they were never given the time to think through concepts and were always told what to read or write, along with how to address the task at hand. Additionally, when reading they were not in favor of classes sitting silently with a book, known as "Independent Reading" without the opportunity to talk about what they read. I reminded them that our classes all engaged in reading Wonder, but they quickly responded by reminiscing about the socratic discussions their teacher facilitated and the many metacognitive pages built that lead to deep learning experiences. It was clear that prior to being in a learner-centered environment where thinking is made visible, they had only been exposed to content through a set scope and sequence that dictated the course of action over meaningful learning opportunities.
As our conversation came to an end, and it was time for us to head back inside, I thanked the girls for taking the time to walk and talk with me, as I was so grateful to receive the feedback that naturally unfolded. I told them that my true passion resided within learning as much as I could about what intrinsically motivates learners. Hearing their thoughts helped me better understand the necessary components of an evolutionary environment that tailors learning opportunities in ways that align with each emergent thinker. As facilitators committed to each learner’s individual growth, and the collective well-being of our communities, this experience is one of many that confirmed for us the value of bringing to life a progressive vision. In cultivating fluid spaces of inquiry that support each contributing individual in meeting their full potential, we empower learners to take ownership and pride over their accomplishments. By affording them time to think and choice in making their thoughts visible, we open the door for intrinsic motivation to take hold.
Let’s consider taking a closer look at the critical shifts necessary for evolutionary learning.
Thought to Ponder: By infusing the following elements into learning environments, can optimal levels of learning and equity in experiences be attained?
Providing learners with the time necessary to be metacognitive thinkers as they build understanding and make long-term connections.
Individualized learning opportunities aligned with each learner’s academic, social and developmental level of growth..
Competency-based model system honoring how learning happens naturally.
Opportunities for communication and collaboration with facilitators, learners, families and communities.
Choice and time to engage deeply in interdisciplinary stewardship initiatives.
Interactions within reciprocal feedback loops between all contributing members.
Trusted relationships that allow for resiliency to develop by embracing mistakes.