In thinking about my own career, I can point to individuals that supported my successful journey down paths of discovery, understanding, and learning--individuals who took the time to converse, respond to, strategize and support areas of interest, need, and challenge. I've also worked with individuals who have in a sense "thrown rocks in my path" hindering the fluid acquisition of skill, knowledge, and success. As an educator, I want to be that guide, mentor and coach that helps a child attain skill, knowledge, and concept in meaningful ways.
What do those paths look like? How do I encourage students to take the paths, and in what ways do I support their journeys?
These are some of the many methods educators may employ to successfully foster student journeys toward skill and success:
- Anticipation: Anticipate the needs that your students will have and create ways to fulfill those needs with plenty of lead time. For example, I invite students and their families to join our class NING (closed social network) on move-up day. I do that because I anticipate that some students and families will want to converse prior to the start of the school year, and NING provides that venue.
- Communicate: Email, NING and the class website serve as regular communication vehicles for the classroom. The website presents all the information one will need to successfully understand the fourth grade program goals. It also provides students with access to tools and activities to develop fourth grade skill and knowledge. Email and NING give students, families and me a 24-7 vehicle for asking questions and relaying important school and classroom updates.
- Know Your Students: Make the time to learn about, discuss and strategize a child's educational challenges, talents and goals with students and families. Team with your students and family members to support each child's successful acquisition of social, emotional, academic and physical fitness skills and abilities.
- Flexibility: Be ready to change course and create new paths when necessary. Classroom life and student goals are not static. Flexibility and regular response are important ingredients to successful coaching and leadership.
- Honesty and Transparency: Share your objectives, rationale and goals regularly with students. Make sure that all students understand the reasons for the classroom organization and efforts. Give students time to discuss, create, lead and revise classroom endeavors for best effect.
- Team: Work with the students as a team. Be inclusive and learn together. Share both challenges and triumphs. Give credit where credit is due. Be fair. Fostering team builds trust, and trust supports the educator-student working relationship that leads to success.
- Learn: Using blogs, social media, books, edcamps, conferences and other professional development tools, stay abreast of what's happening in the profession and what works best for student learning. As your students' guide, mentor and coach, it is your responsibility to be a life-long learner and expert in the field of education.
As an educator you are a designer of learning paths--paths that include online/offline venues, communication, conversation, goal setting and multiple tools that lead students to success. The attitude, affect, environment and process you use to co-create those paths with students will greatly impact students' educational journey.
Similar to beautiful stones in a hand-crafted walkway, the ideas, tools, strategies and information we collect over the summer months can serve to energize and revitalize the paths we create with students each day to lead them forward toward success.