Reflections from the Head of School: November 28, 2017

My reflection this month revolves around the notion of “impact.” I am curious--when we say impact over intentions, what resonates with you? How are you defining impact? What does it mean to you? What comes to mind for you when you think of having a positive impact in and on the lives of your students?

According to the dictionary, the word impact is a verb, meaning: “to have a strong effect on someone or something.” With this taken into consideration, the question can then be reframed as what is the positive, strong effect that you want to have on the lives of our students? For me the answer is multi-tiered. I want them to be impacted academically and intellectually. I want to push what they believe are the boundaries of their thinking. I want to broaden their perspectives on what they believe constitutes life and the world. I want to push them to think critically in ways that they have not imagined that they could. I want to push them to achieve more than they believe is possible. Those are some of my intentions when I think about the impact that I want to have. Where rubber meets the road though is when we attempt to measure what that impact actually is. One of the most authentic ways to do this is through gathering and valuing student voice.

To support your understanding of valuing student voice, I have attached the links to four brief videos. The first two are both under three minutes each and help explain what it means to capture student voice, the third is a TED Talk given by a high school sophomore on how utilizing student views transformed her school experience, and the fourth is a teacher sharing about his experiences with student voice. Please watch these videos as they will give you further insight into this topic.

In addition, below I have also include some excerpts of an article from QKED’s education blog, MindShift, which shares a teacher’s experience utilizing Dr. Christopher Emdin’s strategy of co-generative groups to capture student voice, to improve his practice, and to ensure that his teaching is having the impact in and on the lives of his students that he is hoping that it will.

George Sirrakos’ first teaching experience was in the Bronx, and although he grew up in New York City, he had rarely been to the neighborhoods his students called home. As a white, male teacher, his experience growing up as a New Yorker did not mirror those of his students, and he wanted to try out some of the reality pedagogy techniques he learned in Dr. Emdin’s class.

Sirrakos said he first tried a core practice Emdin calls ‘co-generative dialogue,’ where teachers select students who represent a variety of classroom experiences to give feedback on the class. The teacher actively listens and solicits solutions students believe would help them...

‘As a new teacher, I was spending a lot of time on my lesson plans, so when you think you’re spinning this brilliance to students and then they spend an hour telling you why this class sucks so much, it’s kind of eye opening,’ Sirrakos said. Naturally, he immediately felt defensive, but he worked hard to hold those feelings at bay and focused on listening to what the students were saying.

For example, Sirrakos had spent a lot of time and his own money to decorate his science classroom with posters and quotes he hoped would inspire his science students. In a dialogue, one student told him that his class environment was boring. Sirrakos was confused and pointed out all the decorations on the walls meant to liven up the room. His students explained those images represented him, not them. Sirrakos was still confused, but he asked his students to help him fix the problem.

Students started bringing in their own posters, including things they made. The one rule was it had to be related to science in some way. Immediately students were more cheerful. ‘They have to be part of the solution,’ Sirrakos said. ‘That’s where we talk about having these co-generative plans of action.’ In this example, the solution didn’t require a big shift, it only required that Sirrakos recognize he wasn’t achieving the result he thought he was, and be open to students’ owning their classroom space.

Here is a link to the full article if you are interested in learning more about this approach.


Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2020 Intrado Corporation. All rights reserved.