"I was good in school". His answer kind of took me aback. I don't know what I was expecting him to say, but that wasn't it.
Since this conversation, I have been mulling his response over and over. As an educator, his response disturbed me because I have seen some of my own students fall off the track that I want them to be on. I can't help but wonder, what more can I be doing?
Some things I have done:
1. I have an open door policy. You are always welcome to come back and get help if you need. I have had lots of kids take me up on this, mainly coming for math help, but I have given writing feedback too. I even managed to help one student who had dropped out due to feeling so far behind that he didn't think he could catch up.
2. I try to talk to my kids about their marks before they see them on their report card. I hate that their grade can often skew how they feel about themselves and school. I think that grades often determine if a student feels "good at school". I like to point out areas they can improve on and things I notice where they are improving already. I also tell students that if they are doing their best, then I will have their back with their parents who want them to get straight A's. This year we have started using Freshgrade portfolios to track our progress and reflect on our learning. I think this helps students see how far they have come.
3. I talk to my kids about positive self concept and personal identity. We talk about our strengths and weaknesses. In the past couple years I have done this, and I have found it surprising that some kids have no clue what their strengths are. I told them they can talk to me anytime about this, as all of them have strengths. I was surprised when half my class actually did this.
4. We are exploring our passions through Genius Hour and Makerspace. I am trying to cultivate a culture of risk taking, passion for learning, and reflection on the process. I want my students to try new things and not be afraid to fail. I want them to find out what gets them excited. I don't want them to be left wondering what areas they like learning about during university like I was.
5. Develop a relationship where students trust me and know I care. I think it's important to get to know your students as people so you can incorporate their interests into what you do in the classroom. One of the things I like to do is sit with students during art and just talk while we all work on the art. I try and choose a different table each time. I also check in with students who I think might need that extra support once they hit high school.
6. Help my students develop relationships with each other. I change the seating up weekly so that everyone can work with everyone. We work on giving and receiving compliments to each other, as well as developing kindness. I figure if they can go into high school as a tight unit, it will make it so much easier for them to stick up for each other and look out for each other.
7. We discuss goal setting and do a LOT of reflecting. I want my students to get to the point where they can figure out what they want and see how to get there. I want them to be honest with themselves about how they are doing and what more they can do.
I guess I'm curious what other educators are doing in their classrooms to help students feel successful? How can we make feeling "good in school" more achievable? Does what happens in grade 7 pull any weight once they get to high school?