Sunday, May 22, 2016

Student Led...Finally!!

Michael Sheridan
Trying to isolate my best day ever is like picking the best ice cream flavor or the best cookie - it’s tough to narrow down from such awesome options.  But, one that certainly sticks out in my mind is when things finally “clicked”.  We have worked hard to incorporate discussion circles in the classroom, from the expectations of our class lessons to the physical seating arrangement.  Well, as many things go in the classroom, it was being dominated by the three or four dominant students in the class.  But slowly, more and more realized that it was a “safe” place for them, free to take risks without being judged by their peers.  

Classroom discussions became more and more fluid, more and more student centered, and I found my role becoming more the moderator then the teacher.  Finally, one all clicked.  We were discussing the role of cell phones in schools...and bam!  Success.  Students were sharing, building off one another - changing minds, being respectful, and all the while, working towards a greater level of understanding of the issue at hand.  What struck me that day were the contributions of my students with disabilities - as a teacher of an integrated Sixth Grade classroom, a culture of collaboration and respect had been established enough for every student to feel comfortable enough to step off the edge, to go without a net, and to take a risk.  I found myself at the end of that lesson realizing that I had done little to no talking over the entire discussion, and my students had built their own learning.  

As we progressed throughout the year, those types of inquiry discussions became the norm - but the feeling of seeing your students do it the first time - what a feeling indeed.  

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