This post was written by Grade 2 Teacher, Rachel Couture
It seems that everyone in PYP education is talking about agency these days, the ability for students to take charge of their learning. I recently read an article written by Taryn BondClegg, a PYP Grade 5 teacher, where she talks about the benefits and importance of student agency. Taryn is doing some amazing things in her classroom, such as introducing the unconference model. Students were given the choice to sign up for a meeting with her if they wanted extra support with their literature project. There was no pressure. The students were in control. She was pleased to see that all of her students chose to meet with her for the betterment of their learning.
It’s been a few days and I can’t seem to get her article out of my head and I have to wonder why. What am I doing in our classroom to promote agency?
Recently my students have been inquiring into communities. They came to the realization that our classroom is a community because “we are a group of people that work together, play together and help each other.” Awesome. For phase two, I introduced them to Dr. William Glasser’s Five Needs theory. Dr. Glasser suggests that people need power, love, survival, fun and freedom not just to live, but to thrive. So in light of our recent learning, I asked students to reflect using emojis and show if these needs are being met in our classroom community.
To be honest, I was shocked by the results. Notably, that most students drew a “straight face” emoji next to “freedom”. “But you get to choose what you want to learn about (from a given list)!” I said. “You can choose how you want to show your learning (again, from a given list)!” I said. “You have ‘free choice’ time for 30 minutes every Friday! The word ‘free’ is in the title! Isn’t that enough?” Calmly, they replied with a collective “no”. How could I disagree with that? The students clearly needed more freedom in our classroom community and this was their way of asking for it.
I’m grateful that our unit provided an opportunity for me to learn that my students need more. More opportunities to be the drivers of their learning. After all, this is one of the ultimate goals teachers have for their students, isn’t it? At this moment in time, I have more questions than answers (How might this look in a Grade 2 learning environment? Will we still be able to meet curriculum deadlines? Might this cause any behavioral management issues?), but in the spirit of inquiry, I think that’s a good place to start.