Saturday, 31 January 2015

What Happens When You Don't Listen To Your Students

This year my focus has really been about student voice. In everything that I do in my classroom, I really want it to be about what the students want, not what I want. Because of this mentality, I have seen increased engagement and quality of work produced. When they choose how they do their work, they want to do better. It has fully changed our classroom dynamic for the better.

The end of our last unit was hard for me. It was our How We Organise Ourselves unit about food systems. The whole of Year 5 was going to have a celebration of learning through a food market where students created a food dish using what they had learnt throughout our unit to make informed decisions and create a recipe with a rationale.

I always share with my students the idea that I was thinking of and then ask "What do you think?" Normally, this turns into a major brainstorming session and what we are left with in the end is always better than I could come up with on my own. Needless to say, when the idea of the FoodFest was introduced to my students, this happened again.

However, the challenge that arose later was that we weren't just creating a market of my class' work and food, but rather all of Year 5 and therefore there had to be a consensus across all of the teachers to allow for consistency. Thus, I had to be flexible and go with the majority on some things even when I knew my students had a different vision.

While I understand that as a teacher you have to say no sometimes to your students, it is hard to say no when you are in agreement with them. So many of the details my students wanted to included in the setup of the food market such as including money, food rating on the spot, a different classroom setup and more, were not included in the final celebration.

The students still had a great morning celebrating with their parents, but in my mind, it wasn't the best celebration we had done to date. Why? Because the students hadn't had enough say in the final product and decisions were made that did not include them.

The funniest part was when the teachers joined together and reflected on the event and how we could change it, every single suggestion of improvement was identical to what my class had originally suggested, which of course was frustrating because I knew I could trust my students to have done it their way if we had of let them.

I actually went to my class the next day and had a discussion with my class about how their ideas really matter to me and I prefer when we do things their way. To which I got the response, "Of course Ms. Mac! When you tell us an idea, we just build and build and build on it until it's a super idea of awesomeness!" I couldn't agree more.

So as we begin our new unit, I have a very big focus on making sure my students do it in the way they ultimately think is best for them. And I have a sneaky suspicion they will remind me if I don't.

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