20 Sep Slice of Life: Moving Beyond the “What” of Learning
“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas lights.” – Maya Angelou
We came across this quote this summer. We wrote it down immediately. There is so much to this quote. How often do we think about our learners in terms of how they handle things like rainy days, a lost item, and problems that require both patience and speed?
To us, this quote is about assessment. In recent years, assessment has shifted toward high-stakes, quantitative tools. It is more than that. Assessment should be a window into how we think, process and problem solve. Grit, resilience and a growth mindset are more about one’s disposition and outlook. Success isn’t about what we know; it is about what we do with what we know.
As teachers, we need to continually observe our students in the moment. It is not enough to teach them standards, skills and content based strategies. We need to help them understand themselves as learners and problem solvers. They need to know how they think, learn and respond to a challenge. They need to reflect on how they handle adversity and disappointment. If they do not learn this at a young age they may never have the chance to learn healthy, productive responses to failure, set-backs, and change.
Many districts are focused right now on mapping standards. Every lesson is linked to a standard. Each unit is planned to cover grade level objectives. We think this work is important. We need to stand on each other’s shoulders and support our students in learning to be readers and writers. The concern is that if we only focus on the “what” of our students’ learning, we might miss the “how” of their learning.
In many ways the “how” of learning is more important than the “what.” The “how” transfers year to year and across content areas. It is a thread that is weaved throughout one’s school day, year, and experience. When we take the time to assess and teach our students how to learn and face challenges, we are helping them develop lifelong dispositions. These dispositions will impact their success in school and their happiness in life.
How do you handle these three things? Do you wish your teachers spent more time helping you face adversity and change? How can you help your students think about how they learn and respond to challenge?
Clare and Tammy