Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the SWST Provincial Symposium as a host teacher, with a team from my school board. The day centred around finding ourselves within the work, reflecting on our experiences and moving forward. It really made me stop and consider how the SWST experience has impacted me as an educator.
When our SWST approached me with the opportunity to be a part of the initiative last Fall I was more than happy to jump on board. But, I wasn’t really sure what this meant, what would be required of me? Of my students? Would I have time to participate and was I qualified? Despite all these questions, I was confident that whatever the process involved, it would ultimately enable me to continue to grow as an educator. So, I signed on.
I quickly discovered that this was an opportunity to work with our board SWST Tracy, in order to set specific goals for a group of target students. With the understanding that using strategies for these students should have positive impacts on all students. I was excited to tap into Tracy’s knowledge bank and deepen comprehension in my young learners.
I set out with the intention that IF I provide more engaging opportunities for students while reading, THEN they will deepen their comprehension and produce more meaningful written responses. I determined that I would focus on the use of academic student conversation, drama activities and technology to achieve this.
I anticipated that I would see results with my students. What I was not prepared for was the depth of thinking that evolved with my grade 2 students over the course of the year. I selected quality literature that supported our learning goals in Social Studies; tackling issues of child labour, war, poverty, racism and gender discrimination. I was prepared for the heavy conversations that would come from presenting these issues.
Then the magic happened.
I sat back and watched as my students fell in love with reading. They laughed along with books, they cried for the characters, they asked endless question and they came to me long after a book was completed to tell me they were still sad it was over. They were engaged. They immersed themselves in the books we read and they connected with the characters. The conversations and connections before, during and long after a book was completed became much richer, and their written responses improved significantly.
Yesterday was an opportunity to share our experiences and to reflect on our learning. To hear FNMI students share their experiences; learning to become researchers in order to bring about social change through the StAR initiative. To recognize the importance of listening to students in order to learn from them, and being responsive to what we discover. To provide rich, engaging learning opportunities in order to move students forward in their learning.
So where do we go from here? As an educator I am excited to begin a new year, at a new school using the action strategies I utilized this year. I am hopeful that teachers will be provided with the same types of engaging opportunities we present our students; opportunities for choice, at future PD sessions. Most importantly; I hope that the shift towards empowering students as active participants in their own learning will continue to enable them to grow as researchers, learners and empathic citizens so that they can make a difference in their world.