Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Encouraging Growth in Year 9 Students

Today I had two very interesting conversations with two groups of Year 9 students.

The first conversation was out of the blue... mainly because I was so interested with their overall use of digital tools for their learning in that class (I was relieving) and asked a few questions... which turned into a very deep and meaningful provocation where we discussed the concepts around equality vs equity and how we might rethink how we are fearful of stolen property as being our main concern about going BYOD...

The questions really just began around asking if they all used the network, google docs, google classroom... whether they feel comfortable helping their teachers with digital things or their peers in class. Whether they understood the issue around why certain teachers were more unlikely to use digital tools for learning compared to other teachers. Many of these questions were ones I ask of my own colleagues when we discuss around these big issues with future focussed learning.

How cool it was to hear these students articulate their frustrations and how interesting it was to try get them to change their thinking around what it means to be truly equitable compared to equal. How there are just different starting points for most people and why this is a problem.

Without saying anything about white privilege directly - this group of students were arriculating the issues I hear often from parents and staff. Lack of access, issues around security, managing behaviour, monitoring learning and student engagement, identifying next learning steps...

If our year 9 students are significantly aware of these things... how difficult would it be to change the mindsets of their whanau, older siblings... the community.

How our students are the future.

There was one moment today when they said something about how the future generation will have to sort it out... and I said, "The future is now." With a resounding sense of awe in the classroom as if I'd just dropped the mic... I then told them my name which I hadn't done at the beginning of the lesson and then the questions began to fire rapidly from the students.

Another moment when I was describing equity vs equality... and how I used both hands - one index finger on one hand, on the other hand the other index finger, significantly lower and then the pinky finger - naturally lower... holding this formation up - reiterating that picture of the fence and the boxes... difference between the equal and equitable opportunities. I used the analogy of the fence too and being able to see over it. We used it to discuss the issue around access without ever bringing anything up around racism or discrimination... a feat in itself... and these students discussed high level issues quite easily. The kinds of questions I would like my staff at Heights to knuckle into.

The second conversation was more of a just in time korero. I was a little late heading back to class after doing marking in the staffroom and some of my students were waiting by the Y13 area. I asked them all to come over and sit on the Y13 steps. A place they're not allowed to go yet.

We discussed what a privilege it was sitting there and how we might do our work there outside (partly because I didn't have a key for that room and also because it was nice and sunny). We had three seniors with us who were waiting for me to talk with about their happiness at completing their first exam essay for our class this year.

I talked to them (once inside) about why we were ot there. How it's important to make the right decisions to follow ourselves and be the best possible us we can be rather than following others paths... I asked them why I got them out there... how it was important that they realise that they need to change their attitude to ensure they can achieve that privilege in the future. Because every single one of them can. They just need to realise that what they do and say could have an impact on their lives in the future.

Two very different conversations. Both incredibly powerful. I hope I've planted some mind seeds today. :)

In fact... I truly wish I'd recorded today's lessons... for rewindable awesomeness.