March 13, 2023
By Jenna Fournel, Director of Teaching and Learning
Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students.
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For the past few weeks we’ve been talking about school connectedness, that vital force that meets our human need for belonging. However, according to the research, far too many students aren’t experiencing school connectedness right now. This week I had the opportunity to visit three very different school settings. In every one there was something wonderful going on: students were sharing their expertise, one of the hallmarks of the Inspired Teaching approach. It turns out that sharing student expertise can go a long way toward creating school connectedness. Here are some key takeaways from my school visits, along with questions to get you thinking about trying such things in your own school context:
1. Bring the community into the classroom.
In Inspired Teaching’s Real World History class on Tuesday, students shared a meal, and their summative oral history projects, with elders in our community. In this course they were tasked with finding someone who moved to DC during the Great Migration, interviewing that person about their experience, transcribing that interview to be archived in the DC Public Libraries, and then creating a final project inspired by what they learned. In this particular gathering, students were sharing their work with the elders they’d interviewed; and the joy in showcasing their learning was palpable.
How might you bring the community in to learn from your students?
2. Display process and product.
On Thursday, the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School held its Learning Showcase where families get to come and see student work displayed throughout the school. (We’ll share more about this process and take you on a virtual Learning Showcase tour next week!) What stood out from roaming the halls and classrooms covered with student work was how powerful it is to read and talk with students about the process involved in these demonstrations of learning. When students get to share HOW they figured something out, they’re articulating their own journey toward expertise and connecting with you as a learner.
What are some ways students can showcase the learning process in your classroom?
3. Create space for peers to share expertise with one another.
On Friday I visited with one of our Speak Truth Fellows who was hosting students from four Montgomery County middle and high schools for a Speak Truth session on the topic of diversity. We’ll share more about this project in a few weeks, but here’s what stood out from the visit: a thoughtfully planned discussion, led by students, on a topic that matters to them can teach us as educators as much as it teaches them as students. Students used the discussion as a launch pad for a series of stories they will write and edit into a magazine. Sharing that expertise with one another proved to be an excellent catalyst for a next step in their learning.
How might your students share their expertise across classrooms and schools?
This week, as you think through your lessons, look for those spots where students can share their expertise – with you, with each other, with their families, with the broader community. This week’s resources include some great activities to help you accomplish this goal. Notice what connections get stronger when students share their expertise. And notice too, how you feel getting to observe your students sharing the incredible potential you’re nurturing along the way!
What We’re Curious About
Each week a member of the Inspired Teaching community shares something that’s currently piquing their curiosity. Maybe it will spark yours too!
Trying New Things
Jaqueta Abbey, Teaching and Learning Specialist
This week, I’m curious about trying new things. I moved to Mexico a few months ago, and at the invitation of a new friend, recently attended a belly dancing class. I belly danced for many years in the States, but the idea of joining made me nervous; it’s an advanced class scheduled to perform in only a few weeks and it’s been several years since I last danced. My Spanish skills are improving every day, but I was also worried that I’d miss important direction in this new language.
But, it turns out my ability to understand the choreography and instructions is greater than I thought — probably because I enjoyed myself so much! I left class feeling accomplished, proud of myself, and excited about the next one.
What happens when we revisit “old” hobbies in new ways? What else might we discover and enjoy if we set aside worry and anxiety about new things and instead… just try them?
Class newsletters are probably a chore you’ve been managing all year long. This activity ensures student voice is at the heart of those messages. And at this point in the year perhaps your students can do the writing!
Interesting / Important / Useful
Our students are in school to learn, but they come to us with emerging expertise in many areas. This activity helps you connect that expertise with the content you need to teach.
Let Students Be Teachers
As we enter the spring and roar toward the end of the school year, it’s a great time to take advantage of the growth and expertise you’ve cultivated in your students all year long. This activity puts them in charge of the lessons.