How Do We Help Students Find Their Why?

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The students and I said our goodbyes and shared hugs.  The classroom is cleared, alarm clocks are turned off, professional development days are scheduled, and my reading stack is high.  I am almost ready for summer.  I say almost because before I can embrace the days of summer stretching out in front of me, I have one missing piece.  I want to press pause and reflect so I can make plans for next year.  I want to set my focus for this summer’s learning.  This is my missing piece.

As our year was wrapping up, we began to revisit some of the community building games we had played at the start of the year.  I sat back and watched as the students demonstrated compassion, empathy, and worked collaboratively.  They performed the tasks, asked questions of each other and made plans.  At first, pride filled my heart, but as I continued to watch, I realized the work ethics I was watching at that moment hadn’t been as clear nor intentional throughout the year.  The day’s show of teamwork could have been the culmination of a year’s work, but I knew it was something more.

I pushed my thinking back to the early days of the school year.  How did I set out to construct a community that would work with compassion and empathy?  How did I set out to teach my students to be intentional and responsible for their learning?

Our community was developed through 3 Steps to Building A Learning Community: Vision. Intention. Purpose. and tasks requiring kids to show empathy, compassion, and to work in collaboration to achieve team goals.  The kids learned to support one another and to work together; they were becoming a community of learners.

As the year went on, the evidence of a cohesive community (while still present in most) wasn’t omnipresent.  Some students planned their learning and their intentions were clear and well thought out.  Some student relied on others, or even me, to get started with work.  Some students took over while some sat back and let others do all the work.  Our room wasn’t perfect, but it was a bonded community and students were independent and made choices about how they were learning.

But I want more.

As I watched the kids’ interactions with each other, I reflected on the daily work habits of the students.  I started to wonder if had we taken the time to think about the why?  Did we pause to learn why you might choose to work together or apart?  Did we talk about why it’s important to design your learning?  Did we discuss what it means to make deliberate decisions about learning?  Did we pause to think about how our early (seemingly unconnected) tasks were helping us learn to be a learner?  Did we pause to ask ourselves what being an independent learner would look like and feel like at school, at home, and throughout life?  

Did we stop and talk about the why?

My learners need to know the why.  This summer, my learning will center around how I can teach my students to find their WHY.