Children must be in control of their own learning. — Marie Clay
Peter Johnston, the author of Choice Words and Opening Minds, spoke these words yesterday at my first session of the Annual Cotsen Conference.
Students should expect to learn from each other.
Children’s questions are the most important part of the process.
Students should see themselves as mentors.
What better way to start a post on agency.
To make these words a reality, I need to adjust expectations and plan towards that kind of thinking. Students can’t just walk in the door and take a thoughtful agentive stance as learners. And, it isn’t something I can schedule or compartmentalize.
9:30-10:00 Reader’s Workshop
10:00-10:15: Read Aloud
10:15-10:35 : Agency
But to be honest, there is an element of this in my classroom. Student agency opportunities exist in some parts of the curriculum. And sometimes, agency disappears or is a quick add on and not a priority. Saying “turn and talk” isn’t enough. Explicit teaching as to how that looks needs a bigger place in our lesson plans.
It’s a relentless choice of how we draw lines.
How much of the perceived must do’s overwhelm the agency necessary to “control your own learning.” And how compelling is the choice? Is there a reflective protocol around choice and agency? One that transfers. If I value and believe in Marie Clay’s words, more reflection is needed.
Johnston went on to talk about constructing causal process. In other words, when you do “x,” this is the outcome. It’s a reflective and potentially predictive. Perhaps, constructing causal consequences with students is the cornerstone of understanding how to have an agentive classroom, academically and socially.
It’s complicated work. We as individuals and as a community of learners need to set goals for this kind of learning; intertwined with each other and understanding:
Mistakes and quirks are not who we are.
Kids want to be a participating part of a community.
They (students) need to know how to live together
Seeing our differences as positive additions to a community is more than just up to the teacher. Students need to be taught to see we are better and stronger individually when we listen. Listen, as Johnston stated, “because we give a damn; because we find them interesting.” To create this kind of community, it takes many conversations around literature and learning where student talk is the majority and teacher’s questions are minimal.
It is a journey. One of redrawing the lines and approximating.
Thank you, Margaret Simon, @ Reflections on the Teche, Peter Johnston and The Cotsen Foundation for making me think about agency in my classroom.
Writing has great mental health benefits. — Peter Johnston