I know it’s only March, but already I am thinking about the end of the school. Our school year ends sooner than most. It’s grade 6 and EQAO looms. In a few weeks our focus will shift to test writing skills. We’ll sit in rows. We’ll strip the class of all its richness. Anchor charts will come down. Any visual that students depend on for learning support will disappear. Collaboration will stop. We’ll begin to do everything that is the antithesis of how we learn in my classroom. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. EQAO forces us to focus on a different aspect of learning. It’s different. Would I want this to happen to students every year though? No.
At the moment though, I’m thinking about my students and what awaits them in years to come. I am now into my fifth year of transformative practice. I know things about teaching and learning that I did not know five years ago. I’ve spent time learning about learning, testing ideas and refining my practice to such an extent that this year has been a deliberate process of deepening thinking and problem solving skills. Each month we’ve added new strategies to the toolkit and some grade 6 students have embraced our learning process so deeply that they are better equipped than many adults for solving complex problems. They know that innovative ideas don’t have to be lucky moments. They can strategically work their way through a problem, leverage the knowledge of their peers and develop a new idea. They know what to do when ideas clash. They get it. Not every student of course is at the level, but enough of them are there and I wonder … what’s next? Now that they understand complex problem solving and have a toolkit of strategies and processes to draw upon, next year should give them the opportunity to apply those skills in a larger way to more meaningful problems. They know they are equipped and are busy imagining what they could now do because they have this toolkit. Teachers – you need to learn what they know otherwise all that work will have been for naught and they will sink back into jumping through the hoops of “school”. Please don’t let this happen.