Amplifying Minds

Learning and Growing Together

What Does it Mean?

Championing Kids–What DOES it mean?

In the past few years, we’ve had a fairly large turnover at my school, for a variety of reasons…growth, retirements, people moving…but that means we’ve also had a fairly large number of new teachers join us, and that’s been good. The ones I’ve had the pleasure of working with are extremely conscientious, hard working and most of all, care deeply about kids.

And that’s the first step to “championing kids.” You absolutely have to give a hoot about the kids–all kids, not just the teacher pleasers, or the ones who play school well. We’ve got kids in our classes who don’t play school well–or who have learned to play a version of it that doesn’t get them ahead–in either gaining privileges through showing responsibility OR the learning arena. So, teachers who champion kids work on those skills explicitly (as well as implicitly) while teaching and scaffolding learning.

For example, in a collab fifth grade class last week, my collab teacher, Betsy (@bagee1), and I spoke to the kids directly about body language and what it says when you’re in a group listening. We talked about the fact that you could be paying all the attention in the world to the speaker with your ears, but if your back is turned, the speaker may think you are not interested. I spoke a bit about body language and listening and how to code switch and how to know when to code switch, then Betsy added some comments about personal behaviors and how to manage them.  She addressed the fiddlers, the wigglers, the kids who simply learn better if they are moving a bit or not concentrating all of their energy on sitting still.

But she didn’t tell them they had to stop–the message was be aware of how your behavior is impacting others. Betsy never put anyone down for tapping a pencil or squirming around, or clicking a pen (one of my habits) or fiddling with their belongings or doodling, or any of the other thousands of  things kids can find to entertain themselves (and drive otehers around them nuts). Instead, she was clearly saying we accept you, and let’s figure out a way for you to be yourself, but be considerate of others at the same time. Her message was definitely to be yourself, but consider how your behavior is impacting others and change something if you are distracting others.  Then we gave explicit strategies.  Put the pencil down, move away from the person you’re distracting, move to the back of the group, etc.

That’s one of the reasons I really enjoy collaborating with teachers, but especially Betsy.  She champions kids all the time.  She doesn’t raise her voice, she never appears perturbed, but she is constantly pushing kids to excel, to work together, to accept others, to recognize strengths and to honor and respect the community in the classroom.

Championing kids means setting up a classroom community to accept differences and honor what we all bring to the table. It means recognizing that people will use different tools, work in a variety of different ways and have varying preferences for where to work, which tools and methodologies to use and that individuals even care about when to work and with whom they work. It’s about providing meaningful choice and acceptance and challenge to constantly grow and learn and work cooperatively with and around others.

My next post will be on rules that support championing individuals.

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