As I sat pondering what I wanted to write after the Alberta Summer Literacy Institute the topics of all the speakers kept coming back to me. The thread that brought everything together, at least in the sessions I attended, was the importance of our students knowing themselves, honouring their identity and helping them to see and honour their genius and pursue their joy. With all the ridiculous conversations around Learning Loss and the mountains of advice people seem to have for teachers regardless of not being in the classroom themselves. The other day I saw a tweet from a brilliant educator that really helped me to frame my thinking more.
There are most certainly some folks that just want to dwell on the deficits. They are somehow stuck in some world where learning and expectations should not have shifted while the rest of the world did. I think the second sentence in the author’s first point really hit home the most. Our kids overcame odds that no one in schools right now has, and they did it is amazing ways. So often we see folks talk about resilience and grit until the kids demonstrated it in spades and now decision makers want to move the goal line. Using words like learning loss in front of our kids or even in meetings with other adults disrespects the work of our students, disrespects the work of our parents and disrespects the work of our teachers. So instead, as Dr. Gholdy Muhammad so powerfully reminded me this week, we are going to focus on students GENIUS and JOY. A letter to my students, maybe yours.
Dear Students of 2021/2022,
Some of you have never had a typical school experience, typical elementary, middle or high school but you have been expected to demonstrate learning like you have. You have missed out on experiences, field trips, parties, concerts and sports tournaments. So much has been taken from you and yet you have performed wonderfully. Rather than tell the story of the struggles Covid brought us and the lost opportunities I prefer to focus on your resilience and dedication. This is the story we should be telling.
You individually bring excellence to our classroom and this year while we of course work on skills I want our focus to be that. You and the genius you bring. The unique qualities and abilities that we can celebrate through the work that we do.
There will be voices that try and distract us from this learning journey with their nonsense about “being behind” or “lost learning” please remember they do not know you and do not matter. They are uncomfortable acknowledging that you have continued to grow despite the hurdles. We can’t measure your learning like the years have been typical because they have been far from it. We can measure how you demonstrate your excellence however. We can work on our community and we can build something great together.
Your parents also deserve much thanks and credit for helping us all get through the last few years as we learned to demonstrate our genius and joy amidst the noise.
We will of course address the skills we are assigned to cover, but we will be giving ourselves grace while we do it. We will explore who we are as learners and as people and we will honour that journey. We will not talk about Learning Loss or entertain the idea that somehow these last few years you did not demonstrate your brilliance. I look back on the work we did in a full pandemic year and I know it is not true.
See you all in a few weeks. I am looking forward to getting started.
I spent the summer reading and learning. I am started a new journey myself and in a few weeks, new courses, new students and new discussions. I am excited. I am choosing to focus on our shared genius. I am choosing to see my students as whole people and not a test score. Shifts and growth that is the plan. Celebrate the Genius and Joy as Dr. Muhammad said. The rest will fall into place.