This Wednesday, I had the opportunity to observe and support learners in a Learning Strategies class. This was an excellent learning experience for me particularly because I would likely not have chosen to observe this class, but having done so was incredibly valuable and I am intending to return. It also challenged my expectations about which students I would learn the most from engaging with.
Several of the students worked independently throughout the block, but a group of them finished their activity and I was able to help them with other class work and engage with them about personal projects they were working on. I observed a huge change in the students from the start to the end of the class, not only in terms of how they interacted with the adults in the room, but in how they interacted with each other. The majority of them went from silent and independent to eager to share what they were working on with me and their other classmates. Their teacher used some simple strategies to encourage this, asking students simple questions about their favourite childhood books that the students and myself as an observer could build upon to have a conversation.
I also observed a student that I had seen having difficulties participating in another class being much more willing to interact with me and with other students in this classroom environment. This emphasized to me the value of interacting with students on their own terms through whatever they are passionate about, which in this case was personal artwork. I would like to explore this further and learn how to use this kind of non-academic engagement with students as a starting point to move towards meeting curricular outcomes in a way that works for the individual student. This also appeared to be a major goal for the teacher, who had students filling out questionnaires with the intention of them contributing directly to their own IEP and making it more user-friendly for teachers. Overall, I was surprised by how valuable this block of observation was for me and I learned a lot about how I might work with learners who are not as immediately invested in classroom activities.