Musings by Ellen A. Thompson, Ed.D.
“The kids did nothing wrong. The whole world stopped in March of 2020 for everybody.”
I have made this statement a dozen times if not more, often after hearing teachers exclaim how low their students are this year. The children are where they are. Start there. Spark new learning. Get them going again. Revel in their successes. Make those successes contagious across your group. They are not behind. They are where they are!
I fear that our “data driven” school culture has added to this feeling of failure. It matters how we talk about the data. If we look for successes, our demeanor and outlook becomes more upbeat. If we race to find out how low everyone is, we find just that. Imagine walking into your classroom after discussing all the children who were not successful with your colleagues. It would be really hard to muster up even the beginning of a smile as you look around your classroom thinking of all the fixing you need to do.
Instead when looking at assessment pieces there are questions to yourself:
- What do I know about this student as a person?
- What does the student know?
- What does the student need to know?
- What do I, as a teacher, need to do to help the student learn another new thing?
Learning is a continuum. Each of our students is on this continuum at some point. Every student is NOT on the same point at the same time. It is our responsibility to find each student’s point on the continuum of learning and of life. We teach from there. We use the child’s assets and show them their very own next steps for learning.
While this may look and feel more than a little overwhelming, it really does not have to be. Remember to use your informal data alongside more formal data.
- Observe your learners – take notes!
- Meet with children one-on-one – take notes!
- Assess using more formal tools – analyze this information!
- Reflect on the information you have gathered – all of it!
Create a profile of each learner from multiple angles. Use this profile to inform the next steps for each child. Keep each child in the center of their learning path.
Our students do not need to be remediated. They need to be taught from where they are…right now. They need to build their muscles for learning once again so they can flourish and grow, to become lifelong learners with agency.
Ellen A. Thompson, Ed.D., Literacy Consultant
Ellen Thompson has been an educator for over 43 years. She taught as a classroom teacher in Vermont for over twenty years with many of those years in a multiage setting teaching children aged 6-9 years of age. Ellen was named the Vermont State Teacher of the Year in 1993 and she achieved her National Board Certification as an Early Childhood Generalist in 1999. Ellen began consulting nationally in 1993 and has continued this work throughout her years as an educator. Upon leaving the classroom, Ellen joined the Elementary Education literacy faculty at the University of Vermont in 2000. At the University, she taught undergraduate literacy courses, supervised student teachers and also worked as a literacy consultant in two large scale literacy research projects which spanned the grades K-6. For twelve years Ellen worked with the Essex Town School District as the Director of Instruction and Information Services. During this time, Ellen completed her doctoral studies in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Vermont in the fall of 2007. After the merging of the Essex Town School District and the Chittenden Central Supervisory Union, Ellen continued working with educators in the newly created Essex Westford School District as the Director of Learning Design. Ellen is currently a literacy consultant for Partnerships in Literacy and Learning.