Dare to Imagine
Updated: Jan 12, 2022
As we transition into a new year, let’s utilize the important lessons from our past experiences to transform spaces of inquiry into adaptable learning communities. The ever-changing conditions impacting our educational systems have taught us what many learner-centered theorists have proposed within their constructivist view of enhancing a child’s independent thought process. Providing learners with equitable opportunities that enhance their abilities to build understanding, creatively communicate ideas, and engage in real-world applications hold the possibilities of intrinsically motivating each individual involved in their educational endeavors. Throughout implementation of an integrated approach, the social-emotional learning component becomes embedded into all aspects of growth. For us, the question remains consistent in how to bring forth and sustain a culture of thought necessary for progressive change. As passionate educators, we reflect upon what truly works in meeting learners where they are in their academic, social, and emotional growth. Time and time again, we return to the importance of building resiliency through the meaningful learning opportunities and stewardship initiatives presented. A self-directed journey, facilitated by professionals who truly care about the success of each learner provides the time and space for deep learning to flourish.
To prioritize a communal learning environment, an individual must embody the internal values of developing the foundations for applicable comprehension. In order for learning to be fluid, a true understanding that the experiences learners are engaged in hold meaning. If we can move away from a “one size fits all” scope and sequence that focuses on exposure rather than mastery, we can open our minds to the idea of embracing a “slow and steady” mindset that individualizes learning opportunities for each unique and emergent thinker. In our fifth grade classes, we often observe that when students are assessed below grade level, they receive additional support, which requires them to be pulled out of the classroom. This often results in fragmented school days, as well as a disconnect to the learning environment. A feeling of “falling behind” immediately sets in for both the student and educator, yet the directives to move forward in covering material to meet curriculum expectations remain consistent. However, imagine if instead of ignoring the needs of those who struggle by unnecessarily progressing them past their academic capabilities, a particular climate was established to align and integrate the academic content with each student’s own abilities?
Additionally, initiating a competency-based, bottom-up model of instruction serves to strengthen foundations, while eliminating academic and developmental gaps. If learners are transitioned based on individualized growth and ability, rather than grade level and age, we ensure accountability in progression. In essence, to support each diverse learner in meeting their potential, we place them at the center of their academic journey. At this point in history, as we face educating throughout a pandemic, it is most important that we acknowledge the devastating impact pushing students through a system without mastery could have. The late Sir Ken Robinson proposed, “Education and training are the keys to the future. A key can be turned in two directions. Turn it one way and you lock resources away; turn it the other way and you realize resources and give people back to themselves.” Those of us committed to bringing forth a learner-centered vision built upon embracing mistakes, enhancing creativity and resiliency, and supporting life-long learning attributes have an obligation to turn the key in the very best direction for each child. Imagine if that became the foundation of transformative growth. Our next question then becomes, “How do we move a vision beyond the constructs of a classroom and into our communities to reach all learners?”