Every once in a while something happens to disrupt assumptions or short term expectations. This happened recently and good, bad or otherwise it is an important process to go through to reflect and examine that which is most important and valuable in the path we wish to forge.
It is easy at times to follow the road which has been laid ahead, and it is easy when opportunities are available to go with what is expected, but this does not necessarily lead us to where we truly want to be. I have done this before and it is not something I want to repeat again, but instead keep in check that what I do each and every day is meaningful and leading ultimately to the realisation of an important purpose, self-fulfilment and even a legacy, knowing that I have impacted upon the lives of others (hopefully many) for the better.
After reading ‘The “Why” of Writing’ by George Couros I was inspired to tell my own classroom story of how the “Why” of writing has impacted on one of my students in particular. Teaching special education, especially students with speech and language difficulties means that communication can be a challenge. Imagine struggling for 14 years to be heard, understood or even have the opportunity to contribute. Imagine people turning away because they can’t understand you, the frustration of wanting to tell, explain or ask but your ability to move your tongue means you cannot make the right sounds and your words become distorted and unclear. Imagine struggling to write, sitting in a class where you practice basic sentences that are functional but not expressive or meaningful over and over again. See the student disengage with learning, with people, with ambition.
If we really want to improve the literacy of our students, we need to look just as much (if not more) at the purpose, at why they are writing, as to simply the strategies and process. I have seen the evidence within my own family, that the why of writing means more than anything.
I too have seen the powerful impact that purpose can have.
Enter a dynamic, resourced classroom with people who take time to listen, to figure out your language, who share experiences and take time to ask for help to understand. The language barrier becomes their challenge to overcome not hers. Enter the iPad and laptop. Enter edmodo and email. Welcome to the world of immediate response! Welcome to the “why” for writing.
I have seen this young person blossom, become engaged with her world, make new friends and contact old ones. She enters the classroom desperate to talk about our conversation on edmodo from the night before and never leaves before being reassured that I will check for a message or remind a colleague to check for theirs. Within 5 minutes of entering the classroom, she can be “logged on” and sending messages to peers, to me, to other staff. She constructs meaningful sentences and is motivated to “get it right” because she is desperate to be understood. Responses and replies reinforce and motivate her to keep going.
Having the “why” has engaged her in literacy, increased her self confidence and enabled her voice to be heard. It drives her learning and the improvement follows! I am excited to see in the near future, how blogging will impact her and her peers as we start connecting with people all over the globe!
Aren’t we responsible to find the “why” for all our students?