Lately, I have been thinking about what it means to provide students with “personalized” learning, and how we get there. In an ideal world, we would tailor our instruction to accommodate the individual interests of students and allow them to pursue content through passion. Of course, in order to move education in that direction, we have to know our kids–their likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, preferred learning styles, family situations…and the list goes on. Not an easy task when you are responsible for one-hundred twenty plus students. So, how do we make that task less daunting? Perhaps, we should do a better job enlisting the help of our students.
Recently I was in a classroom, observing an activity, when I began talking to a young man about his project. In the course of our conversation, I used his first name, to which he responded:
“How do you know my name?!” (picture a shocked expression on his face)
I explained that I do my best to learn the names of the students on our campus, but went on to provide several reasons he had made a positive impression on me (i.e. participation in sports and clubs, demonstrated kindness to others, and praise from teachers).
During my explanation, it occurred to me that we might not spend enough time talking to our kids about how they form positive impressions. For many students, blending in provides a sense of security and self-advocacy is an uncomfortable concept. However, making a name for yourself is not only a critical skill for them to develop, it will help us as educators better understand our students and, in turn, individualize their instruction. Kids need to understand that they don’t have to change who they are to be recognized, but they may have to be put themselves out their, so to speak. Take a calculated risk.
I will do everything I can to remember your name, but giving me a good reason to remember it isn’t a bad thing. Through your words and actions, leave a positive impression.