It is unique experience to hear words like Differentiation and Direct Instruction from 14 year olds. There is a strange cognitive dissonance that happens when children are using your “invented” language for their own ends, advocating for themselves in ways that you hadn’t even considered. What do you do when they own the language and it is no longer a barrier between teachers and students, but rather a shared discourse?
Well, that is what I heard from Fernando, Cherry, and Niles yesterday. As 7th and 8th graders at Grant Beacon Middle School, they spoke expertly about their educational experiences. But, it wasn’t as if they were regaling us with stories or parroting something prepared. Rather, it was their actual reflection of how GBMS has changed over time. They spoke of Blended Learning and Enrichment with an authenticity that is so rarely matched by adults. When Fernando said, “My education is both more social and more private,” I heard the power in his voice. He meant that the social and collaborative pieces of his learning were easier for him because he had used Google Docs or Moodle as a structure to build off of. And, he also meant that because his instruction was tailored to his needs, he had a relationship with his grades and his work in a way that many other students do not.
This is not trivial, but it should also not be quite so special. It shouldn’t be quite such a unique experience to hear students speak about their needs for more advanced content when they are ready to move ahead. It shouldn’t seem strange to hear they students want a more personalized and differentiated experience. So, the big question is, “How do we make it less odd and make it less of a singularity for students to own the language of their learning and be given time to reflect upon what has traditionally been ‘done to them?'”
It can’t just be that we use our EduSpeak more with students. It can’t be that we talk about content and student performance in abstract terms, unrelated to what is actually happening. No, the students are living it each and every day and they are forming their own opinions about their school life. So, the conversation has to happen in that same every day manner. Reflection and time to process theway in which they are learning in addition to what they are learning is essential.
It is clear that these students have been given that opportunity. They have taken it too.