Re-thinking learning for the 21st Century

Why I Didn’t Do My Homework

I tried to do my homework. I really did. I’m a self-proclaimed goody two shoes, and I have always done my homework. Last year, parts of my Cohort 21 homework had graphs. But this time, I felt really stuck. I even tried to get @estewart to do my homework for me.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

But, hear me out.

I’d like to dive into student-teacher relationships, and specifically how I might foster these relationships in a second language with middle school students. I want to learn more about how my students feel and what my students need when it comes to these relationships; however, I worry that directly asking my students about this myself puts them in an uncomfortable position. They are kind people, and I know that openly asking my students to share extensively about their personal experiences feeling safe in my classroom might not yield the most honest results, because I’m sure they’d be worried about my feelings. Or maybe they’d be worried about how I judge how they feel. It feels extremely personal.

Instead of chatting with my students, I’ve been speaking with other teachers at my school about student-teacher relationships. @estewart has been a great resource. Additionally, I’ve joined a book club at my school where we are reading a chapter a month from the book The Third Path by Dr.David Tranter, Lori Carson, and Tom Boland. The goal of this book, and our book club, is to figure out how we can weave together both student-teacher relationships and curriculum in our classes.

At our first meeting, one of my colleagues said that since she’s done training in The Third Path, whenever she feels conflict with a student, she often pauses to ask herself, “Is this going to build the relationship?” and I like that thinking. It certainly feels like it will create more peaceful days to let some things just go.

I also had each of my students write a Take Care of Me Letter at the beginning of the year. They wrote this letter in English; however, it was a really wonderful “get to know you” activity, that helped me quickly learn about my students in September.

So, I’m trying. I didn’t do my homework, but I’ve tackled this question from a few other angles, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can learn and try next, hopefully using French more often than English.

See you Saturday!


world's best try-er



    @jbarios Hello! The work you did you perfect models the kind of professional inquiry and curiosity that lies at the core of the action plan process. What made it even more special is that you made it your all your own.

    • Jennifer Bairos

      Thanks, Justin!

  2. Erica Chellew

    Hi Jenn,
    I appreciate that you have your students’ best interests at heart. They will intuitively know that and this will work for you in the long run. What I wondered, as I read through your predicament, was whether or not another teacher could ask the questions for you. Our learning strats teacher just asked groups of our identified kids about our classes and the resulting anecdotal feedback was incredibly helpful. The students were kind with their feedback but also honest. I learned so much while reading through their comments. The keys, I think, were that someone else was acting as the interviewer and that someone else was scribing so the kids felt like they could just talk.

    Love the Take Care of Me Letter. I will be stealing that!

    • Jennifer Bairos

      Thanks, Erica! I did wonder that as well. I spoke with @estewart about asking my questions for me; however, time got the better of us, and we haven’t been able to make it happen. Our school is doing a deep dive into social-emotional learning, and all of the students are sharing feedback in this area, so I’m looking forward to hearing those results when they are shared with the whole staff.

  3. Lara Jensen

    You do you, Jen! You have been circling around what you want to explore, digging in to some resources, and taking action to better understand your students – that’s all awesome!

    At the d. school I learned about the notion of empathetic interviews and allowing your interviewees to tell stories about something rather than asking them a direct question. In my experience this allows you to infer an awful lot and often more than if they “only” respond to specific questions. If you really want to interview your students, maybe you could ask them to tell you about a time when the felt they had a positive relationship with a teacher, or about their most memorable but challenging learning experience, or a bit about something you might find surprising regarding their learning of an additional language… These kinds of stories might yield some interesting avenues for you to explore. But…

    Feel free to keep breaking the “rules”! Make your Cohort experience work for you.

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