As the school year began, I shared with you the important role I believe we each play in meeting the needs of all learners through an equitable and relevant education. Truly appreciating the needs of each learner, however, is predicated upon knowing each student individually. In fact, numerous studies have shown there are two main reasons learners become disengaged at school—a lack of connection between lessons in the classroom and what students observe beyond the walls of the school, and students feeling that no adult truly knows and/or cares about them. Not surprisingly, students who drop out of school prior to earning a diploma cite these very reasons, above all others.
So, what exactly is important to know about each student? There is no magic answer to this question since each student is unique. However, I’ve listed a few ideas below for consideration, adopted in part from a list provided by Rick Wormeli in a recent issue of Educational Leadership (September 2016):
- Personal Interests (sports, music, television, movies, books, hobbies, etc.)
- Family dynamics
- Transience rate
- Home responsibilities
- After school work schedule
- Previous school experiences
- English Language Learner status
- Health concerns
- Socio-emotional learning strengths and challenges
- Vision or hearing problems
- Gifted/advanced learner (keeping in mind giftedness can manifest itself in a number of ways)
- Leadership qualities
- Multiple intelligences
- Personality profile
- Recent life changes or personal struggles
- Accomplishments in or outside of school of which they are proud
Again, these are just a few ideas to get a better glimpse of each child. This list could be expanded in a variety of ways. The point is that each student is a unique individual with unique needs and talents. When a person feels both understood and appreciated, the chances of success are greatly multiplied. Or, as Rick Wormeli writes: Yes, student, you exist. I accept all that you are, and I value time in your company. You will commit to being the best version of your maturing self, just as I will commit to being the best version of my maturing self for you. We’ll achieve our goals together. Now, I see that your name is “Ellie.” Is it short for something? Tell me more. You are a person worth knowing (Educational Leadership: Vol 74, 1; p.15).
We have over 18,000 students worth knowing. Thank you for your daily commitment to our students and getting to know them in an authentic way. They won’t forget it.