How Do You Make Teaching Student-Centered? We Asked Some 8th Graders!
Excerpted from our newsletter: Carroll Connection, Winter 2017. In this edition, we highlighted 4 key belief statements that came from our all-staff meeting held prior to the 2016-17 school year. Read the full edition.
BELIEF STATEMENT #4: We believe that our diagnostic, prescriptive, multisensory, student-centered teaching guides our decisions about how to give each child what she or he most needs, including capitalizing on students’ strengths and addressing learning struggles. Read our belief statements.
To get at the heart of belief statement #4, we sat down with some Carroll 8th graders to chat about their experiences.
What do you think this belief statement means?
Kerri: I think it means that the teachers are knowledgeable about what we are all diagnosed with and that they are ready to help us and support us with whatever we need. Because of this understanding, it makes me feel safer and more willing to share my ideas. And, I’m more confident.
How do Carroll teachers help you feel confident?
Kerri: They understand why we are having trouble. They understand that we’re not just “stupid” and that we’re actually trying really hard, that we have the ability to get it, and that we just need an extra little push.
One of the words in the statement is “prescriptive.” What does that mean to you?
Lily: It makes me think of a pharmacy (nods around the table). But, in this instance, I think it means that the students need a special focus and attention.
Another phrase in the belief statement is student-centered. What does this look like at Carroll?
Anna: I think it means that teachers teach to us. They know our strengths and our weaknesses so they understand what we need.
Samantha: Teachers are more focused on the individual student. If you don’t understand something, it’s not “that’s okay, you can figure it out later” but “okay, let’s stop and explain it and figure it out together in a way that you understand.”
Lily: I think that the small class sizes help with this. Teachers can walk around and go to each student individually. It’s not like “let’s meet about this after class” but teachers can take time in class to help us.
Anna: I agree - I like the small classes. At my previous school, there were classes of 30 kids and the teacher wouldn’t always get to me. Since I was dyslexic, it was hard for me to learn and I was always confused. At Carroll, the small classes really allow the teachers to give me help when I need it.
What are your thoughts about the Triple Scoop Approach?
Dodie: I think it’s definitely helping me. We have flex, Targeted Cognitive Intervention (TCI), and lots of language, tutoring, and math during the day. Everything together is helping.
Kerri: I think it means… When you first come to Carroll, teachers work on building up your skills in language and math - the building blocks you need to later work on other skills. Then, there is TCI that covers non-academic skills - stuff that will help you later on. Finally, it all comes together to make somebody who is ready to go out and do something good.
How would you compare Carroll to other schools?
Kerri: I feel like Carroll is like other schools in some aspects. But it has many differences that make it better. It feels like a community and family. At our old schools, we had problems and we struggled. At Carroll, everyone has dyslexia in common. It feels nice to have peers who know exactly how it felt before and how good it feels now.
Dodie: At my old school, I was the only one who had a reading specialist. I would miss classes and spend most of my day on the computer trying to learn to read. And, it wasn’t working. When I walk around Carroll, I no longer think about the fact that I have dyslexia. Because that’s why everyone is here and we’re all in this together.
What’s your favorite thing about Carroll School?
Anna: The people. All the teachers are extremely nice and supportive. I like that they also coach us in sports because it lets us get to know each other outside the classroom. My non-Carroll friends talk about not liking their teachers but I feel really connected to mine.
Kerri: You feel closer to teachers because they know how you learn and really know you because of the smaller classes. Plus, many of the teachers are alums from Carroll so they understand how we struggle and share similar experiences.
Dodie: My favorite part of Carroll is definitely the people. Because we’re in middle school, there can be some not-so-fun social situations. That’s normal. But we all have one thing in common that brings us together so I never feel distanced socially.
Samantha: Like what Dodie said, I like that we all have something in common. If you go back to your old school, it may be more difficult to make friends because you don’t automatically have that dyslexia connection.
Lily: When I talked to people at my old school about dyslexia, they would say “oh yeah, I know someone who had that.” They would try to comfort me like dyslexia was something that’s bad. They tried to understand but it never felt real.