I am going to describe a process that I am creating by combining three resources to support learners in a secondary alternative program.
The first resource is called “circle” it is an intervention that we use in our alternate programs to start the day. The students arrange themselves in a circular seating arrangement and the teacher/leader starts with a “check in” by asking the group how was your night/ morning/ weekend? The group responds individually with a thumb up, thumbs down or sideways indicating how they are feeling, good/not good/ or in between. Everyone is given the opportunity to elaborate if they wish. The next step is to provide a forum for student and teacher announcements. The next part is the question of the day, which everyone in the group has a chance to answer or pass on if they prefer. The questions can vary from lighter questions such as: What are you thankful for? What is your favorite food? If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go? Questions that promote deeper thinking can also be utilized such as: What is your opinion regarding capital punishment? Do you think Canada should provide asylum to more/less refugees why/why not? This activity is designed to accomplish many objectives: first students are learning to express themselves and in the discussion may become aware of different points of view. Students can gain tolerance and understanding for other points of view. As well, a forum and protocol is provided where any issues within the group that need to be addressed can be presented and discussed.
I have extended this activity to include a resource that I came upon at the alternate education conference last year called Quirky Kid. This resource can be found at their website http://childpsychologist.com.au and provides an extensive array of resources and information, based on research, which are designed to promote emotional regulation through developing children and adolescents’ capacity to express and deal with emotional situations. In my experience the school has become a place where as teachers we are being faced with the expanding task of helping our students to be successful in the social/ emotional domain, which in turn often has positive ramifications with regard to their academic success in school.
The final element of my plan is to incorporate lessons that were developed through a research center in the psychology department at Stanford University that is based on the Growth versus Fixed Mindset work of Carol Dweck. This website can be found at https://www.mindsetkit.org and has extensive resources designed to support educators and parents in developing and improving their students’ mindsets to make them better learners. I found this resource to be inspiring as it addresses aspects of growth, belonging and purpose in the mindset of students, which are all elements that support engagement for students in taking ownership for their education and making their experience in school more positive. I believe that as educators if we are going to fulfill our mandate of creating motivated and confident life long learners an excellent place to start is by addressing the negative mindset that many of our students have regarding their abilities as capable learners.