School can be full of many frustrating experiences for learners. They can develop a negative mindset, rather than a growth mindset, and come to hate their schooling experience. George Couros suggests that teachers shouldn’t focus on learner’s weaknesses, rather focus on their strengths.
Finding learning experiences that allow learners to have voice and choice is crucial. While working on my Masters program, my friend Karla Holt (@karlaholt) introduced me to the idea of Universal Design for Learning. We used these principles to make an eBook for Alberta’s Grade 2 social studies program. The book gives all learners access to the content and they are able to have voice and choice while working through the book. We even built in assessment tasks that offer voice and choice. After introducing the book to my students, the learning experiences in my classroom were transformed. Students were no longer completing prescribed tasks in the way I wanted them to, but unleashing their creativity to share their learning in new ways.
The year I “launched” my eBook, I had a student in my class that was a striving reader and writer. She would have had difficulty accessing the text if she was required to read from a print book and would have had equally as much difficulty writing out sentences if she was to complete traditional paper-pencil tasks. With voice and choice options, she was able to listen to the content and make videos to share her learning. Since she was able to use what she loved – technology and videos – her confidence was off the charts. The learner she left my class as, was a completely different one than who came to me, all due to her learning experiences being focused on her strengths.
Our job as a teacher is simple – to help each learner become the best they can and feel good about themselves. That’s the easy part, the actual doing of the job is the hard part. Teaching isn’t a cookie cutter job that is the same for everyone, it’s about building relationships with each learner, finding out what they love, giving them opportunities to develop their strengths and build confidence, and encouraging them to be their best. A HUGE job, but one that I love doing everyday.