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Emma Siesfeld has spent the last 10 years in public education as a teacher, coach, and administrator as well as designing and implementing support for students with disabilities that promote skill growth and independence.
Dreams for education
How do we support all students to be motivated, engaged, and develop their skills for success? When asked about the big dreams Emma holds for the field of education, she replies that she wants education to feel empowering to students. She wants students to feel like their voices matter and whatever they contribute is valued. Emma believes that learning can be fun and engaging to students. We just have to make sure we are caring enough as educators to make it different. As a teacher, one of our biggest goals is to make sure students feel prepared and ready for the future. Students would ideally make progress every day with the tools they’re given and come out feeling powerful in their lives and the world.
Taking direction from students and their communities
Emma discusses how in our standard teacher training, we take what has traditionally worked for us and then when it comes time to teach, we sort of take that same model and apply it to our students expecting it to work for them. But there are many students who will struggle with your methods because they have different learning obstacles and strengths than you. So, we have to be willing to pay attention to these needs and honor the child in that way. Another way to change our mindset is to not think of students learning when they want to. Instead what if it’s students learn when they can? This brings in a responsibility to teachers and school leaders to figure out how we can make the school setting and the learning more equitable for students who are underrepresented.
“I think there are a lot of ways in which we are not fully in control...to make sure students get what they need, but certainly, looking at what we have within our roles and trying to figure out and identify exactly what we can do to really support students so that they're in a place where they can learn.”
Strategies to support all students
It can be scary to experiment with new methods. Changing the model can feel uncomfortable but Emma shares that it just comes down to being more open and courageous for the sake of a supportive learning environment and for student growth. Remind yourself that it’s okay to stumble or to not get it right when trying new ways. You don’t have to be perfect about it! To help yourself make the journey easier, be open to transparency with your students and even their parents if that helps. This encourages social emotional skills that we want students to learn as well. Another thing you can do is talk with peers and coworkers. Share your feelings around those challenges and ask for some advice on strategies that they might have tried in the past. You’re likely to get a lot of encouragement and new ideas by opening up about it. One key strategy Emma reveals is partnering up with parents so that they can make sure everyone's on the same page with knowing what that student/child needs to be supported by the school and parent.
To hear Emma walk me through several strategies from her amazing guide, listen to the episode, and feel free to share what what strategies resonate with you!
To continue the conversation, you can head over to our Time for Teachership Facebook group and join our community of educational visionaries. Until next time leaders, continue to think big, act brave, and be your best self.
Lindsay is a educator and leadership coach who helps teachers develop engaging project-based curricula, fosters student and teacher voice, and works to advance racial and gender equity and culturally responsive practice.