Thursday, June 13, 2013

What's It All For? Kids' School Reflections

Ruby, my third grader, told me the other day that the end of the school year is tiring. Why? "We have to reflect about everything."

Oh yes, it's that time of year when students in progressive schools everywhere are asked to write reflections on their favorite and least-favorite subjects, on their strengths and weaknesses, and on their progress as learners.

My kids have been doing these kinds of reflections since the start of their education. Here's a reflection that Bella wrote at the end of first grade. She was shown a sample of her writing from the beginning of that year, and was asked, "What do you notice about this writer? What were you like as a writer back then?" 

"I didn't have as good handwriting and now I can spell better. I thought that writing has to be really interesting and fun but now I really understand that writing can be anything. You can write about what you did in the weekend, like going to the movies or cooking with your mom."
Wow, education has come a long way. In my day, the teachers wrote the reflections, if they wrote anything at all (didn't they just write a letter grade?). We knew what kind of learners we were, depending on whether we were in the "smart" group (in math, or English, etc.), the "regular" group, or the "slow" group.

Now, it's a bit more like a corporate evaluation, where kids evaluate themselves, and teachers are able to see how those reflections correspond to or deviate from their own professional sense of each child as a student. There are benefits for the teacher: for instance, if Shira keeps saying she's terrible at math, even though the teachers know she's on target, there may be a problem with the teaching strategy or the overall message.

But even better, in my view, is that this method makes the children conscious of the purpose of their education. School is not a place where we stick kids until they're old enough to get a job; school is a place to learn things, and reflections help students become aware and take ownership of what they've learned.

Sometimes I think we'd all benefit from more reflecting. How am I doing as a mother, compared with this time last year? As a friend? As a writer? As a family chef? Am I meeting my goals, and if not, which ones have I let slip? It's easy to get on the treadmill and just keep walking, without taking the time to notice the changing scenery.

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