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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

learning space

A few days ago, during an interesting conversation with a colleague, a realization came to me.  The conversation began after my class had been cleared of its institution-like tables and chairs.  In their places sprouted various couches, chairs, tables, pillows, and cushions.

"In my mind, they are not being serious if they are not sitting at desks or tables," my colleague, and friend confessed to me.  This had been more than a stumbling block for me as well.  How could they possibly work if they were sitting on a couch or at a picnic table?  And more importantly, how would they test?  We all know that our year boils down to that one day when we test (please note the sarcasm here). 

Over the next few days, the strangest thing happened: work.  A level of engagement began to happen in my classroom that had previously not taken place.  Students were diligently working in the new areas, some together, some on their own.  They had picked their own spots based on where they would work best.  We spent a week moving around and testing out different areas and for the most part, they were making mature choices that were directly effecting their learning and engagement. Listening to their discussions was very interesting.  The students knew exactly where they could work and where they were comfortable or even too comfortable.  

The room consisted of different areas: the library, the mini-rooms, the genius bar, the maker space, the living room, the tech spot, the think tank, and, finally,  the picnic area.  Each area had its own theme that set it apart from the rest of the room.  The living room and the mini-rooms were quickly identified as favorites.  Personally, I adored the mini-rooms.  My room came equipped with three large, 1970s closets.  After talking to our administrator, the doors were removed, the cabinets emptied, and the shelves removed.  Each cabinet was given a theme: Marvel, Harry Potter, and The Walking Dead. Pillows and tables were added as well as lights.  These mini-rooms have become great places when concentration is essential.  

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

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What do Taylor Swift, The Hunger Games, and Snapchat have in common? The answer is: they’re all big in pop culture for teens and tweens. That makes them likely topics for papers, should you invite your students to write about what matters most to them. But are these topics going to require your students to dig deep? Will these topics inspire them to express themselves as only they uniquely can?

To explore this topic, I invited educator Vicki Davis to Studentcentricity. Vicki teaches writing. In fact, she’s passionate about it and is the author of Reinventing Writing: The 9 Tools That Are Changing Writing, Teaching, and Learning Forever.

Vicki told me she wants her students to “wow” her and that typically can’t be done with subjects they can simply Google. Nor is she likely to get them to “wow” by simply instructing them to write about whatever they want.

I encourage you to listen to our discussion. During it, I asked:

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity


Boys bring a certain level of verve to any setting. Day or night, they are ready for action and movement. Boys have a natural curiosity that fuels their hunger for learning about their wonderful world. They instinctively want to experience their environments in a kinesthetic fashion and are never truly satisfied with a “because I said so” answer to their questions. In short, they are explorers and doers of the best kinds, relentless in their search for adventure and always ready for a good ole’ ruckus. I know this is true not because I was a boy, but because I am the mother of two young boys, 8 and 4 years old, and I work with young boys on a daily basis as an administrator in an Early Childhood Campus. Maurice Sendak was never more honest and true when he penned the sentences “Let the wild rumpus start” and “Inside all of is a Wild Thing”. Sendak had a way of channeling the motives of our boy explorers!

Knowing that these are the hallmarks of healthy, growing boys why is it so many schools struggle to educate boys in a fashion that engage their full selves and optimizes their many innate talents and characteristics?

Below are my take-aways and suggestions for answering this question based on a Studentcentricity podcast hosted by Rae Pica, Getting Boys to Love School, that I participated in with speical guests Ruth Morhard and Richard Hawley, both experts on educating boys and gifted authors. 

When teaching boys please remember… 

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Saras bookWhen the children in your class are facing adversity in ways you’ve never experienced – or possibly can’t even imagine – how are you supposed to relate to them? Considering how important the relationship between teacher and student is to academic and future success, you’ll want to know what these children need from you and how to provide it. So I invited Sara Langworthy, author of Bridging the Relationship Gap, psychology professor Ross Thompson, and educator Heidi Veal to Studentcentricity to talk about bridging the relationship gap with children facing adversity.

The conversation, which you can listen to here, was enormously insightful and informative. I was furiously taking notes but I simply wasn’t able to keep up with all of the wonderful thoughts these panelists offered. Among the key words were stability, consistency, and predictability. This is what these children most need. Sara also suggested that, once we’ve established trust with them, we be “constantly curious” about our students in order to maintain a relationship.

Afterward, she added:

When working with children facing adversity, it's important to change our thinking from "What's wrong with you?" to "What happened to you?" Being curious about children's lives, and opening yourself to learning from them and their experiences can strengthen your relationships with them. It's important to be caring and consistent with young children facing adversity by acknowledging their experiences, and working every day to be a source of stability they can learn to trust. 

Heidi had a great deal to say after our discussion:

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

ed techA few months ago Education Week published an article titled “Why Ed Tech Is Not Transforming How Teachers Teach.” The subtitle was “Student-centered, technology-driven instruction remains elusive for most” and the piece included this sentence: “The student-centered, hands-on, personalized instruction envisioned by ed-tech proponents remains the exception to the rule.”

Naturally, because I host Studentcentricity: Practical Strategies for Teaching with Students at the Center, I took notice and invited Leslie Wilson, CEO of the One-to-One Institute, and Brian Aspinall, a teacher and author of “The Real 1:1 Is Not About Devices” to join me for a discussion on the topic.

Following our conversation, Leslie sent me the takeaways below:

Moving to a learner-centric model must be a focus aligned with strategies that help educators shift their traditional adult-centered approach.

This process must first encompass a vision: what does a learner-centered ecosystem look like? Sound like? Feel like? To what actions do we aspire? Then, how do we move in that direction? It is a process not a turnkey solution.

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