Today is Blue Monday – theoretically the most depressing day of the year. January is a hard month in general; walk into any school and you will see students and staff alike stressed out with the impending end of the semester, summative tasks, exams, report cards, and any other multitude of issues. One of my pedagogical beliefs about learning is that it should be fun and if it’s at all stressful, it shouldn’t be that the students are worried about the grade, rather that they are confused and problem solving – not in fight or flight mode.
Another main pedagogical belief I hold is that all learning should be purposeful and meaningful to the students – especially the summative tasks. Traditionally, I feel that summative tasks have been a regurgitation of information rather than a celebration of learning. In English, all four of our strands have a metacognitive overall expectation and I believe that’s the most important aspect of a summative project as it allows the student (and teacher!) to reflect on the growth in skills over the semester.
In preparing the students for deeply reflective tasks, I had many interesting conversations. In all of my classes, reflection through a focus on the process rather than the mark on the finished product is encouraged, but for many students this is ingrained in their mindset and still the mark supersedes the journey. I can understand as marks are the currency for post secondary, and I look forward to the day when some other method gets students where they want to go, but for now, all I can do is encourage them to reflect and grow; reflect and grow.
So today I’m reflecting on what I can do during this challenging day and month. For myself, I’ve taken time out to chill on my couch with my dog and write this post. I’ve also been reflecting on this semester for me as a teacher, but more importantly as a learner. I’ve had many exciting and engaging learning opportunities and conversations that have made me think more than ever about my practice, but more so about education in general. What I’ve concluded is that WE don’t take enough time to do this kind of reflection on a regular basis. As adults, we have a multitude of excuses for why we don’t (time being the major culprit here) but it’s so necessary for growth. As educators, we really need to step back and think deeply about what’s happening around us. We want our students to be effective reflectors and thinkers, but we need to be the models for that kind of behaviour. If they don’t see us engaging in reflection, it’s not worthwhile to them. We need to give them a reason as to why what we ask them is purposeful and meaningful to us as learners so that they see the relevance and connection to their own lives.
So this leads me into tomorrow. I’m going to have conversations with my students about the importance of reflection and why we need to be thinking about learning, not just learning. The best lesson I can provide for my students in these final days of class is to truly relish the process and to reflect.
Reflect and grow.