May 30, 2022
By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching
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.
Last week’s Hooray for Monday focused on building resilience in our children. It was painful this week to find ourselves digging deep for resilience in the wake of another school shooting.
Trauma like this can make us feel helpless. But we’re not helpless. Exhausted, frustrated, weary and angry, yes. But not helpless. Educators may not have the political clout to solve the problem of gun violence, but our elected officials need to hear our voices. We may not be able to prepare for every possible disaster that can befall our students, but we can prepare them to be critical thinkers and problem solvers, so they have their own set of tools for navigating the unknown.
I was struck by the words of Archbishop Gustavo Garcia Siller of San Antonio, TX in a recent NPR interview. He urged those wishing to help the people of Uvalde to “walk at their pace.” And that is a useful reminder for the students in our own classrooms as well.
Creating the space for students to express their feelings and wrestle with thorny issues doesn’t require us to have all the answers or even set goals for outcomes. Walking at their pace means we keep ourselves open to evolving our plans and learning by their side.
This very long school year is almost over. We are all doing what we can to simply take care of our students, and hopefully ourselves, as we finish the school year. Walking at our students’ pace right now might mean focusing on joy, making slime, offering longer recess, winding down. That’s important too. And in the months ahead, we will have more time to think about what walking at their pace might look like in the new school year.
This summer Inspired Teaching is launching a new format for one of our flagship youth programs that is all about learning with our students at the center. We invite all DC secondary teachers to consider becoming Speak Truth Fellows. We are launching this program in partnership with Ford’s Theatre, and you can learn more about the details below. Speak Truth is an excellent way to bring student voices to the fore. The discussion format offers fertile ground for young people to explore issues that matter and begin to see themselves as changemakers.
Walking at our students’ pace means willing ourselves toward forward momentum. It means prioritizing space for the hard conversations. It means working in partnership with our students to create safer schools, and listening to their ideas about how to make that happen. It’s the antidote to helplessness. It’s the hope at the heart of our profession.
4 Ways to “Walk at their Pace” this Week
- Get on your students’ level. Sit at a student desk, get down on the floor with them, gather in a circle outside, and sit on the grass. Use your body to show them that you’re all in this together.
- Let them plan a day. In these last days of school, you don’t have to do all the work! Have your students work in groups to plan half-hour segments for one of the last days of school. Give them some parameters in terms of resources and time, review their plans, then let them make the day happen. This activity offers a variation on this theme.
- Brainstorm conversation topics. Have students write down something they want to talk about together before the school year ends. Review their submissions and make space in the remaining days of the year to discuss what they have written.
- Create “Individual Summer Plans” together. What is an Individual Summer Plan? It’s a student-generated personalized document detailing the things each person in your class wants to learn while they’re away from school complete with guidance for how that learning can occur. (The guidance is something you may want to conference with them individually to create.) Have students reflect on the things they are most interested in, what they already know and want to learn about these topics, and where they can go to learn more (plug the library!). Consider looking for some good child-friendly websites they could peruse to fuel their child’s curiosity. This would be time-consuming but particularly helpful to parents of younger students!