My current occupation as a teacher is as an Online Teacher with students in Kindergarten through grade nine. I help set-up individualized programs for my students, suggest resources, provide weekly feedback on learning samples, do home visits three times per year and write two report cards. In my world as an online teacher, everything is individualized for the student. Yes, every little thing! Parents are free to use any resource from any grade, with some supplementation when needed. Students can work on their individualized plan throughout the year or intensively for months and set-up the schedule that works for their family’s rhythm and any activities that they choose to schedule.
Sidenote: I LOVE THIS HOME LEARNING LIFE!!!!!
In the last three years, I have worked with over twenty-five different families, totalling almost fifty unique students. Out of these fifty students, I have had four students whose families have wanted their children accelerated through the grades that they are currently in. This means that they felt that their child was exceeding what was expected for that particular grade in the nine or ten subjects that they were enrolled in with me: Math, English, Social Studies, Science, ADST, Art, Careers, Christian Studies, Physical Education and a Second Language, if they were in grades 5 through 9. Yes, they believed that in every single subject their were not only above the grade level, but they needed to be in the higher grade. This has put me in a terrible position as the educator “gatekeeper” for this process to happen. I have had a mom scream in my face, inches from my face. I have had a mom have every email and ever conversation revolve around acceleration. I have had mom’s question why I didn’t think their child should be accelerated. And I have had to get really crystal clear on my thoughts around accelerating children, which was never a discourse that I had had in the years I spent in the public campus schooling system.
First, I think all children are amazing with unique gifts and talents. Truly! I see such gold in all the students that I have the privilege to work with over my 23 years of professional teaching and many years before that through coaching and camps. I have never met a student that I didn’t genuinely like. I see preciousness in all of them.
Second, I believe that if you are in favour of and allow for acceleration that you must also be in favour of and all for retention. And, I would NEVER encourage retention for any reason. I have worked with a student in grade seven that was born with part of his brain missing that functioned intellectually as age five, but whom fit in completely with his grade seven class with the support of an EA. (Educational Assistants or EA’s really are saints!) I worked with a hard-of-hearing student in grade six, who had difficulty communicating, but could write like Shakespeare. I also had a student who couldn’t sit in his seat nor focus when someone was verbally speaking to him. He needed to move and have visual cues. Imagine if any of these students’ were “retained”. What needed to happen is that, I as the teacher, needed to be “retrained”. I needed to see what supports and programs needed to be put into place to support this student and their learning style so that they could be with their peers. Retention would not have solved anything. Retraining of me the teacher changed everything.
If we have this flexibility in the online learning world plus I fully believe that retention is never an option, how can I support acceleration?
If a child is bored, try hands-on learning or games.
If a child is flying through their resource, choose a different one or let them fly.
If a child needs greater challenges, have them take an online course or write their own problems to solve.
If a child is wanting to be with a friend in an older grade (yes, a parent has even given this reason to me for acceleration), they can learn patience to meet with their friend after school or at other activities.
These two words really mean to me that we need to retrain ourselves to see what the child is needing to do to learn in the best way possible.
Stepping off the soapbox today!
Have an epic May long weekend and love what you do!