In our virtual Kindergarten class, my DECE partner and I value each teachable moment. We recognize that our students are constantly making meaningful observations and connections to the world around them. Something I always expected to gain from these 4 and 5 year olds was knowledge. One thing I did not expect was how profound this knowledge would be, or that it could so deeply resonate with me and my pedagogy.
Here is what my students teach me every day in Kindergarten:
One of our students showed up to class one day and announced to the large group that from now on he would like to be called by his new nick name. “What’s your name now?” one of the other students asked. “Willy” he replied, “W-I-L-L-Y” *.
From that moment on his classmates called him nothing but Willy.
He requested to be called something different from what we’d all been calling him since the moment we met him in September and they immediately took action. They listened to him, understood him and respected his wishes. They didn’t ask questions, raise concerns or challenge him.
They just did it.
All of them.
The more I think about this, the more amazing it feels. I imagine a world where everyone can be respected like Willy and is addressed by their preferred names and pronouns. This demonstration of kindness and acceptance from children is exemplary.
It is not me that has learned patience from being their teacher, but me that has learned how to practice patience from them. My students are incredibly patient and kind to each other, to me, my teaching partner and all visitors that enter our class.
I have had entire conversations with my virtual class while my microphone is, in fact, off (cue face palm). They continue to smile at me and remind me to turn it on before I try again.
They remind me to approach each day with a smile and that it’s okay to make mistakes.
Finding the “Why”
A question our students ask often as they continue throughout their day as investigators, explorers and engineers. Each time they ask this simple but important question, it challenges me to think about my “why”.
Why have I chosen to teach a lesson in this way? Why have I chosen to implement specific rules, boundaries or routines?
My students’ innocent question of “why” drives me to critically reflect on my practice. This ongoing reflection forces me to live outside of my comfort zone, try new things and make mistakes. Responding to the unique needs of of my students, allows me to demolish the ‘this is the way I’ve always done it’ mindset in order to celebrate individuality and strengthen inclusion in a world that is ever-changing.
I’m lucky to be a small part of their journey, as my students continue through this school year and beyond. But, I don’t know if they’ll ever truly understand how much I learn from them.
* Students name was changed to protect confidentiality
Please note: ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that the daily, in-person model of instruction and support best meets the educational, developmental and social needs of students, provides the best experience for support, and is the most equitable learning model for all students.
ETFO’s expectation is that elementary virtual learning in any capacity, including through hybrid models of instruction, will end once the pandemic ends.