Written by Sequoia Abbott-Saulteaux
What is the purpose of education?
What specific skills should students be learning?
How do we know when students are learning?
These are all important questions when it comes to being an educator, but these questions aren’t always easy to answer. In part, because there are so many variables when it comes to teaching and learning, every student is a unique individual with different learning strengths and weaknesses.
When I think about why I became an educator and I think about what I want my students to get out of my teaching, one common theme comes up. That theme is the notion of being a life-long learner.
The first step to becoming a life-long learner (someone who is excited and interested in learning for their entire lives), is for an individual to feel safe and acknowledged while they are learning. When students feel as though they belong, they can begin to build on the classroom culture of learning, where learning is encouraged and mistakes are embraced. This should start as soon as the student steps into the school. I strongly believe in engaging with students as people first, getting to know them as individuals in order to learn how to best engage them in classroom content. I incorporate student interests, and student collaboration into my lesson plans whenever I can. Students should be able to see themselves and their culture in the lessons. When students can see the effects of their learning inside and outside of the classroom, they can begin to see the amazing impact education can have on day-to-day life.
In my classroom, I support this by using different teaching strategies to see which works best with the learners that I am with. I want my students to learn skills that will be useful in their present and future lives. Skills such as collaboration, personal responsibility, having inquiring minds, and self-awareness about their personal learning strengths and weaknesses. I want my students to be empowered and know they can make a difference in their communities and the larger world.
How do we create life-long learners? By engaging in learning that digs deeper than recalling and regurgitating. In my classroom, I regard authentic learning as students that are engaged in the learning process. This is why I often employ projects, where students have to show the various stages of their learning. In this regard, diagnostic and formative assessments are vital to ensure that students are on the right path. When paired correctly, this allows students to gain the confidence and knowledge that will set them up to become life-long learners.
What do you believe is the most important skill for a student to gain from education?