Starting with Agency

We’re drawing close to the end of the first week of school. Somehow this start to the school year feels different. Is it that I have an exceptional group of students? Yes, I think so, however I think that every year. There is something different in the feeling of our classroom. There is a calmness in the air. There seems to be more opportunities to smile.

What have I done differently?

We have started with agency. From the first day, we began with choice. Inspired by the ISHMC Grade 4 Twitter post of student choice, we organized our first week into ‘must, should, could’. This has been our guide for the week. Of the tasks we were to complete this week, how many could be done with choice of time, place and groupings. We started from day one with self-directed learning time where students had choice of what they were doing. We included time to visit with new and old friends. Edna Sackson’s blog post on ‘Building a culture of Agency…’ asked thoughtful questions to reflect and provoke thinking on how to start with agency.

Establishing a gentle kindness to our day

This school year we have a new timetable with a 10-minute period after lunch. We are using this as a daily mindfulness time to center ourselves after our lunch time play and get ready for the afternoon. This week we have practiced breathing deeply, being in the moment, yoga stretches and enjoyed stories about mindfulness and peace. Coming in quietly to the classroom has been a challenge, however it’s been a wonderful invitation to calmness.

Taking time with each student

From Day 1, I posted a conference schedule to have a private meeting with me. Each day I met with 4 or 5 students individually to have a chat and get to know each student a little better. We sat on the sofa and I took notes about their interests, passions, ideas of success and importantly what they wanted from me as a teacher. The common theme through their answers to the last question was ‘kindness’. They wanted me to be kind to them, and of course I promised to try my hardest. The blog post from ASCD In Service gave 6 questions to follow for the short interview.

Next week, we begin with planning our individual timetables. What next steps will I take on the journey to build a culture of learner agency?

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