Becoming a Student

We are prepared for the future by what currently surrounds us.

If what surrounds us is upheaval and chaos, low expectations and mistrust, then our future will be built upon that. But, if what surrounds us is calm within a storm, unwavering support, and high expectations for what is possible, then the future will follow suit. Yesterday, I saw a school surrounding students with only the latter.

Charmaine Keeton, the principal of Hallett Fundamental Academy, said a good part of her work was to teach children how to become students, and that idea gave me pause. It is the concept that children are not students simply by walking through the doors to the school, but only by engaging in scholarly pursuits and behaviors. This simple shift from students being the default position for children, to a status that is earned is a powerful one.

And as I walked around and spoke with Mrs. Keeton, it was clear that these expectations were for all kids. Their learning was paramount in everything I read, and within every support system in place. This process of earning “studenthood” looked like receiving badges to be worn every Friday or encouraging authentic writing to a professional hero. It was clear that this scholarly rite of passage was a struggle for some children, but it did not seem insurmountable. In fact, it seemed as though the path to becoming a student was traveled each day, echoed in the footprints painted on the floors between and inside of each classroom.

Being a student is not simply about showing up, just as teaching is not about simply having a lesson plan. And by encouraging children to “lean in” to their learning, we are also encouraging teachers to do the same. I love the idea that “studenthood” could be an honor earned through your work, as I would like to always be that kind of student. It is is in making the daily transformation as I walk from my car to my office that I can insure I will learn something. I don’t get extra points for showing up, but only for participating and collaborating. I only become a student, an active learning organism, by acting like one.

It is my sincerest hope that you all become students daily, and that we encourage our children to do the same.

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