Handing Over the Wheel of Learner Accountability

The Veritas story is unfolding day by day. In the scheme of time, we are still at the very beginning. As we skip, march and sometimes tiptoe along the way, our observations help us to support changes that will continue to inspire a culture of learner-driven students. Recently I read a book that Mrs. Hotopp purchased for the guides, Courage to Grow, by Laura Sandefer. It was a book that was hard to put down. In fact, my mind began to race with inspiration and ideas. I knew that my class was at a fork in the road. From the very beginning of the year, my first goal was to help our students create a culture where students are free and safe to take risks within their learning; a culture that values and celebrates learning differences and recognizes the beautiful individual that each of us are created to be. Watching our group grow in love and concern for one another is truly a blessing. We are also discovering some challenges. As Mrs. Hotopp pointed out in the previous blog post, several of our students lack motivation and the desire to drive their learning. Over the last few weeks our students have been tackling some difficult questions in hopes to shed light on this problem. Part of self directed learning is to have the power to influence your learning environment. Rather than bringing down the hammer myself, I have turned the accountability to our students. In order for authentic change to occur, students need to have agency within the solution. If we are to take the next steps in this journey, students must be the driving force. Their desire to learn is the force that drives their journey here at Veritas. 

 

To dig deeper, the students have been asking themselves some of the following questions:

 

Do you like the way we do school at Veritas? Why or why not?

How can you become an independent learner?

How can you learn from your peers?

How can we create a culture of high expectations?

What should happen to a student who is disrupting work time?

How do you hold yourself accountable?

How can you create change in our learning environment?

How does authentic learning happen?

 

Handing over the Wheel

During this past session, a purposeful light was directed towards individual work ethic. Handing their projects over, I opened the door and offered them the driver’s seat. Although I was eager and willing to help, the students needed to take the wheel and begin driving. There were moments where I was tempted to become a backseat driver or take the wheel. However, at this juncture, my observations and guidance took place from a different seat in the car. Some students proudly grabbed the wheel and sped off, never looking behind.  Others were diligent and focused, although needing to drive at a slower pace. Then a few resembled new drivers, with nervous jitters and the fear of making a wrong turn. There were a couple who made many pit stops along the way, but pulled through in the end. And finally, there were a couple that struggled with driving altogether. 

 

Watching this project unfold along with the deep questions the students have been addressing has been riveting. Changes are on the horizon. I can see many of our students are ready to take the next step at Veritas. They are ready to take charge of their learning. As we evaluated where change could be implemented, one particular solution gained popularity, adjusting our daily schedule. As we discussed the many breaks causing disruption with the flow throughout our day, I asked the students if having a different schedule may help. This caught their attention. First, it was shocking to them that changing our schedule was even an option and second to have a say in it was liberating. After much thought, tinkering and deliberation, I presented the group with 3 different schedules. We carefully evaluated each option and talked about how it would change their day. I gave them some time to think before asking them to cast a vote. Votes were cast and excitement began to build. As we implement our new schedule, we will continue asking questions to steer us in the right direction. 

 

Another focus of our conversations was accountability. The goal is to move from being dependent on an adult to self and peer accountability. After many discussions of what accountability is and how to turn it into an action, the students were ready to hear about some examples to generate their ideas. The key component in the new accountability system will be student management. The students will soon be working out a system and put it into use. 

 

I’m excited to observe how these changes will affect our classroom culture. I know this road will not be perfect and smooth. We are in for bumps, hills and curves along the way. We will have moments of success as well as times of trials. I am curious to witness how the students who lack motivation will be impacted. Will they be influenced by their peers to take charge of their journey? Do we have enough student-led learners to significantly impact the culture in this group? Are the motivated students going to thrive and flourish? Within these transitions, there will be moments to celebrate as well as moments to reflect. I am honored to be part of this process and look forward to loving, encouraging, supporting and guiding our students. 

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