Saturday, December 18, 2010

What you see isn't always what you get...


The question is iconic... "what do you want to be when you grow up?" Perhaps there are those of the opinion that we ask this question in school too early, and maybe even too often adding stress to the minds of young people who have enough on their plate just handling the pressures of school. The fact remains, however, that all children will do something when they grow up requiring the unique skills and abilities they develop throughout their lives, and teachers play an important in this development.

Thinking of this development as each child's story is one way to approach our challenge to support and nurture it. We start hearing from our writing teachers very early in school that the best writing comes from our own experiences. What if our students began documenting their learning stories in kindergarten, and continued to write them all the way through to graduation? I mean actually writing them down. The story would read and look differently over time, but that's what we would intend to happen.

For our students, these stories would be a meta-reflective, continuously evolving assessment of where they've been, where they are and where they want to go in life and school; their hopes and dreams would jump off the page like postcards predicting the future. For their teachers, these stories would be the assessment lens we use to gaze at our students strengths, glance at their weaknesses and analyze where we think we can support them in writing the next chapter. If authentic assessment is that which carefully considers the perspective of the learner while striving to make learning relevant and engaging, then I can't think of an easier way to tap the private logic of kids than simply asking them to tell us their stories, from their point of view.

Simply sharing our student's stories, celebrating them, using them as catalysts for personalized learning and competency development is an opportunity teachers should leverage in support of each one of them.
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