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Reflection: What My Students and I Learned

Looking back on the work my students did, I am certain of the following:
1. Student-centered instruction works. After overcoming initial embarrassment and fears about teaching the class and instructing their classmates, my students began to feel a sense of accountability to each other and themselves. These students became more invested in the educational process and they were having fun. As a teacher, one of the most exciting moments came later in the semester when a student was absent and asked to copy someone’s notes from the class he missed. Instead of simply doing this, a student who started off the year as fairly timid explained what we learned and modeled the reading strategies. My students didn’t even realize that they were acting as teachers on a daily basis.
2. Student-centered instruction requires a lot of preparation and guidance from the teacher. My students were able to accomplish amazing things but they needed a lot of modeling and guidance in order to do so. Students are not trained teachers. In order for this to work, modeling is key.
3. Students want to play a larger role in designing instruction. In a time when standardized exams and predictable classroom routines are the backbone of the educational system, students are looking for something new. Empowering them to create and lead instruction is a way to spice things up and engage them in learning.
4. Students gain confidence when they act as educational leaders. This is especially true for students with disabilities, who often lack confidence because of their placement in special education classes. Although my students felt this way about being in a reading class in the 9th grade, they felt a sense of accomplishment and empowerment by being able to teach the class and create assessments. They were doing something  unique!
5. Trying new strategies in the classroom is scary, exciting and rewarding. One of my mentors at TCICP described my work this year as “radical.” For much of the time that I focused on student-centered instruction, I was haunted by the question, “Would it work?” I feared that it would all be a waste of time and I would just aggravate my students. Neither of those things happened. My students learned the material, they learned how to listen to each other, we created a culture of respect in the classroom, and I learned to trust my instincts. The inquiry process is based around the idea that you are trying out something new. What happened in my Orton-Gillingham classes was new for the students and new for me. Fortunately, it was a rewarding experience for all of us. At the end of the school year, we all felt the same way: proud.