As part of the journey of establishing and implementing our school improvement plan as a brand new school, we have a school closure day planned for this Friday. We'll be discussing this article as part of the day to help with getting teachers into a common "headspace" about our diverse and complex student population.
In summary, the article makes the point that all kids bring a virtual schoolbag of knowledge, skills and experiences from their home life - but that not all of it has a valued place in our educational system or fits with our preconceived ideas of what is necessary to be a successful learner.
Some children are able to open their school bags when they get to school and make use of what is in there – such as knowledge of the English alphabet, book language, computer experience, and family genealogy. Other children may find that there is little or no way that they can make use of their knowledge and experience – bilingualism, non-English folk music, family small business, sibling care and kitchen duties...
...There are, of course, many possible virtual school bags and many possible educational trajectories as Thomson points out. The problem occurs when some children’s capacities, interests, knowledges and experiences count for little or nothing at school, in comparison to their peers.
This is an important challenge for all teachers but impossible to overlook in a Category One school. If we are serious about personalisation and relevance for students, then working out how to leverage what the student already brings in through the door has to be a priority. That almost always begins with building a positive relationship with the students in one's own classroom. In my new role, that is a much more difficult proposition but I try as much as I can to strike up conversations with students in the yard, on the bus heading off to an excursion, when helping a kid borrow a book in the library or when working side by side with them on their learning. Any snippet that I can notice and enquire about can build that relationship. I've noticed that because I've only been at the school for a term and because I have an official leadership title, kids are surprised if I greet them by name and respond very positively if I can ask a question or make a comment that shows I know more than that. Whether it is an interest in Transformers that I notice, a sibling from another building that I ask about or even enquiring about the ingredients in many of our students' lunchtime Vietnamese rolls, I gaining valuable insight about their "virtual schoolbags".
Link to the full Virtual Schoolbag article.