As my team engages the topic of student choice in our research, I have noticed an added benefit to making room for choices in the classroom that I did not anticipate. Paying attention to student selections, asking them reflective questions, and highlighting their responses for the whole class is another way to connect students to the teacher and one another. I have found it can act as a window into student personality and interests, something that typically is shoved between moments of curriculum rather than explored during the lesson. This serves the purpose of teaching the content and learning about the child simultaneously. How handy.
As a high school mathematics teacher in a large school district, forming relationships with my students does not happen by accident. I teach six classes, totaling 172 students. Each student has a unique background, growing and changing interests, and complicated needs. I front-load much of the getting-to-know students task at the start of the year with a detailed review of school-provided student records, first week ice breaker activities, student surveys completed by the student and their families, as well as paying attention to what they say, do, and participate in outside the classroom at school events and extracurriculars. It’s never enough, though. Yet, it is important. There are five core propositions for National Board Certification, widely the most respected certification available in education in my area. The first among these tenets is for teachers to be committed to students and their learning. The most seasoned teachers I know in the business have shared the same wisdom with me since I began teaching ten years ago: relationships matter for learning.
So, I turn to choice as a way to position the whole student within the lesson. I recognized these moments of better understanding a student while working within the core content by the feeling of joy, surprise, or curiousity that crept up on me. I plan to further explore this connection and illustrate with examples as I continue my research log.
How do you leverage student choice in your classroom? Have you noticed this connection? Please add a comment and let me know!