As a teacher, in fact as a parent, friend even human being, I would like to think that I have encouraged and supported people around me to celebrate their unique stories, talents and traits. I think this has seen me choose particular paths and pursue certain passions over my lifetime. Special education is just an avenue for me to celebrate some of the amazing and unique differences of many young people I am fortunate to learn alongside and support.
In one of my current roles at my school I have been working to promote relationships at the centre of classroom learning. I have been encouraging staff to build connections with their students, to give of themselves and to see how these connections benefit our students.
Initially I admit, I found it a little absurd that teachers would need to be encouraged to build and see relationships as central, because I was never “taught” this, nor was it something that I had to specifically identify as an important component of my own teaching practice, it was just something I did. Throughout my teaching time I have begun to understand how crucial my family and personal relationships have been in developing who I am as a teacher and how I perceive learning. I have written several times how my mother has impacted on my approach and I honestly think that most people who have relationships at the centre have had someone in their lives who have modelled this exact thing.
When I saw IDENTITY DAY promoted by George Couros and the things that students and staff were sharing about themselves in his division and beyond, I knew this was something I wanted available to my students and staff. So this term I set ourselves this challenge and last Friday we celebrated our first Identity Day.
I am very fortunate to have a group of staff to work with whom are flexible and willing to try new things and each of them developed a great display to share. There was a wide range of interests and talents displayed by our students and each “owned” their projects to different degrees.
Like anything attempted for the first time, there were some teething problems and our reflections since have meant our next edition will be more refined. Throughout the preparation we noticed that the conversations our students were engaged in (with peers and teachers) about the impact people or events, pets or talents have had were the most profound learning times. We will continue to develop how we can incorporate these ideas into the final presentation, as articulating this in a product can often be difficult for many of our students without significant support.
I am extremely excited anticipating our next Identity Day project knowing that we have the opportunity to further develop what we have learnt from our first and ensuring it is a genuine reflection of their growth and individuality.
Thanks to the great many examples and sharing from students and educators around the world.
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