Anti-oppressive student placement cards

Anti-oppressive student placement cards

With the focus on anti-oppressive pedagogy, my board of education is advocating for schools and teachers to consider their past practices in supporting students. This, of course, includes writing report card comments and student placement cards that are inclusive and equitable in nature. I will cover report card comments in a later blog.

In this blog, I’d like to address the past practices of the placement of students into classes

Past Student Placement Cards:

  • Gender: Blue cards for boys, Pink cards for girls
  • Academic success: High, Medium, Low (circle one)
  • Language: High, Medium, Low (circle one)
  • Math: High, Medium, Low (circle one)
  • Special Education Support: formal/informal IEP (circle one)
  • English Language Learners: Steps of ELL for Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing
  • Students to place in same class with:
  • Students to not place in class with:
  • Attendance issues: Yes/No Reasons for absence:
  • Student Behaviour: Big “B” and little “b”
  • Parental issues: Big “P” (big parent problem)

In looking closely at these descriptors, it seems obvious that they are obviously oppressive in their approach.

With feedback from teachers about student placement cards, themes came from their comments and conversations. These included (some points will naturally overlap):

Focus on student

Gender Neutral

  • No colour coded cards
  • Preferred gender identification (e.g. she/her, they/them, he/him)
  • Gender identity (e.g. male, female, transgendered, gender nonspecific)
  • No balancing the number of “boys” and “girls” in classes

Learning Styles/Personalities

  • Extrovert, introvert, a little of both
  • Academic and Non-academic strengths
  • Academic and Non-academic needs
  • Consider placing students with “supportive” friends
  • Consider students seeing self identity in teacher’s identity (i.e. BIPOC, Racialized)
  • Ask students who they would like to have and not have in their class
  • Ask students what type of teaching style they prefer
  • Consider who they like to collaborate with
  • Resources required to support needs (i.e. Behaviour Teaching Assistant, Office Support, Educational Assistant, public health nurse for medical issues)

Student conference/feedback/questionnaire

  • Extrovert, introvert, both
  • Academic and Non-academic strengths
  • Academic and Non-academic needs
  • Consider placing students with “supportive” friends
  • Consider students seeing self identity in teacher’s identity
  • Ask students who they would like to have and not have in their class
  • Ask students what type of teaching style they prefer
  • Consider who they like to collaborate with
  • Greatest strength, greatest need academic and non-academic
  • What I want my teacher to know about me …

What sparks student’s interests?

  • Favourite subjects, topics, interests, passions
  • Hobbies
  • Art, Music, Drama
  • Sports
  • Things they do out of school

Focus on Classroom

Class Composition

  • No stacking classrooms with students with IEPs
  • Consider number of introverts with extroverts
  • Consider placing students with “supportive” friends
  • Consider students seeing self identity in teacher’s identity
  • Ask students who they would like to have in their classroom
  • Ask students what type of teaching style they prefer
  • Level of emotional and behaviour support needed (Behaviour Teaching Assistant, Office support)

Learning Environment

  • more structured, less structures
  • style of teachers
  • types of learning tools in class
  • more tech savvy with more techy teacher
  • Hard of Hearing in quieter class with lower noise level

Focus on Community

  • consider 1st language of student
  • put students who speak the same language with same language, supportive friends
  • build community of same language speakers in school

Parental conference/feedback/questionnaire about child

  • ask parents how to support their child next year
  • Student is an extrovert, introvert, both
  • Academic and Non-academic strengths
  • Academic and Non-academic needs
  • Consider placing students with “supportive” friends
  • Consider students seeing self identity in teacher’s identity
  • Ask parent who they would like their child to have and not have in their class
  • Ask parents about preferred teaching style for their child
  • Greatest strength, greatest need academic and non-academic
  • What I want my child’s teacher to know about my child
  • Students to help create a parent survey to learn about what is important to the school community, school families, and students

This is not a complete list, nor have I actually developed student placement cards that reflects these themes – there is a draft below. I also have not developed a survey to collect this data – but I will ask my students to do this as part of a math assignment.

The purpose of this collection of themes is to spark discussions and thoughts about developing anti-oppressive student placement processes that will support students and teachers in the business of learning.

This is a start. I’d love to get feedback on developing student placement cards further – please leave a comment below.

Collaboratively Yours,

Deb Weston, PhD

Draft of Student Placement Card/Information

  • Identity: Female – Male – Gender Neutral – Trans – Other
  • Pronouns: She/Her, He/Him, They/Them, Other
  • Personality: Introvert-Extrovert-Both-Other
  • Racial Identity: BIPOC, FMNI, Mixed, Other
  • Special Education Support: formal/informal IEP (circle one)
  • English Language Learners: Steps of ELL for Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing
  • Language(s) spoken at home:
  • Favourite Subjects: Language, Media, Math, Science, Social Studies (History/Geography), Phys Ed/Gym, Music, Art, Drama, Recess, French
  • Least Favourite Subjects: Language, Media, Math, Science, Social Studies (History/Geography), Phys Ed/Gym, Music, Art, Drama, Recess, French
  • Supportive Student Friends:
  • Students who need a break (from each other):
  • Medical Needs/Fears:
  • Favourite Things To Do (away from school):

Any suggestions? Please make a comment below!

All gone

Rm 103 photo by author
Rm 103 photo by author

Desks emptied, stacked and put aside. Check. Dormant superfluous paper recycled with extreme prejudice. Check. Walls filled with student work, learning goals, art, and inspirational messages now returned to vanilla coloured vacant voids in waiting. Check. Boxes packed and piled in preparation for transport to my new pending portable location (second in 4 years). Cool.

As you’ve observed from the picture on the left, Room 103 is on vacation along with my students. Until the middle of this week it has been a 10 month hive of activity home to 31 + 1 learners all buzzing at their own frequency. Our class was a hub of inquiry, personal growth, and constant learning. And now it’s all gone.

With 9 weeks of summer ahead, I wonder how much of what has been taught over this past year will come back with students when they return in September? Have you ever thought about why we the school year is paused in the modern learning era? Have you ever wondered what it might be like to embrace a balanced teaching year?

I am not advocating additional teaching days beyond the 190+/-, but am asking if we could consider alternatives to a schedule that seems more suited as a throwback to our hunter gatherer ancestors. This got me asking how the schedule we work around really came to be used? Other than the fact that our elementary schools are not equipped with any climate control in the classrooms I am not sure what else it might be from balancing the instructional year? A post from Learning Lab Why Does School Start in September? Hint: It’s not the crops provides some context to this issue.

Now before the hate mail about how important the summer break is for teachers and students, let’s consider the positives. Balanced school schedules allow for greater retention of instructional concepts. That means less knowledge hemorrhage from year to year. Imagine students having the same amount of instruction time, but spread out more evenly, but they retain more of what they’ve learned? Secondly, with a balanced year, there will be weeks off at different times for families to enjoy time together around already existing holidays. Think of the travel savings? Imagine if March Break was 2 weeks? We could all drive to Florida and back relaxed and ready for Spring.

Okay, I’ve shared the sunny side of this, but here’s the shady side. Balanced school years impede students’ ability to make money from summer jobs which may be crucial to helping them attend school, or helping their families. Balanced school years may not provide enough recovery/down time for students or educators to relax and recharge. This might lead to mental health issues such as stress and anxiety. Not good.

Weighing both sides of the conversation is healthy. There are schools already operating on a more balanced schedule with positive results. So where do stand with the classroom empty and the students/staff all gone. Where would you want education to go with this one? Holler when you get a chance. After some down time.
Happy summer. Thanks for reading, responding, and sharing. See you in September. Will

Keeping the Wheels Turning As the Year Winds Down – Detective Stories

Yes, it’s that time of year again – summer vacation on the horizon but before getting there, you must survive the last few weeks of French with the Grade 8s.  In case you’re not familiar with that scenario, getting them to do any work can be “a most frustratingly futile experience which sees your heart rate and blood pressure soar.” And that’s putting it politely. Although I agree with Mike about the need to have the students working on something that motivates and engages them, the challenge with seeing your students for one period a day is that there is little continuity at this time of year with it being a time of constant disruptions. What I’ve more or less resorted to by the last two weeks of school is mini activities that span a range of 1 to 3 classes. One that I’ve found they’ve enjoyed is the Murder Mystery activities. There is nothing more enjoyable than seeing your students thinking, debating and collaborating during this time when the most energy they seem to be able to muster is devoted to them repeatedly asking you why you’re still making them do work. Although I started off this post talking about Grade 8s, this is actually an activity that could work with a rannge of grade levels. I found  a couple of online sites suited for students which had a variety of mysteries (and even magic tricks as a bonus). Two that were particularly are listed below. I also found the Schoastic website helpful for ideas to develop a whole unit (ideas for next year…)  As for finding material in French, I was not overly successful. There was one site Polar FLE that seemed to be fairly good but again as a Core French teacher, you’ll probably find that you will need to translate and adapt the material so that your students can easily follow along. Happy sleuthing!

www.kidsmysterynet.com

www.42explore.com