Exploring Identity

Presenter Information:

Kyle Chadburn & Andrea Gratton

7/8th Humanities

Orleans Elementary School

kchadburn@ocsu.org agratton@ocsu.org

@eclipse7385 @agratton16

(NOTE: This unit was completed with a combined group of 7th and 8th grade students at Orleans Elementary, a small K-8 school in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The final project was completed by students in grades 5th-8th.)

What was the purpose of this Identity unit?

The unit was designed to serve several purposes that addressed critical needs in our middle school:

Building Relationships at the Beginning

Getting to know our students better as people, and not just as learners, is critical to the work we hope to do each year. Clearly we know the importance of building relationships with our students, but we sometimes lose sight of this due to the time constraints and content pressures we experience. As we work on shifting the mindsets of our students and creating systemic change in our practice and culture, this is the perfect time to embrace opportunities to build relationships with our students and support them as they build healthier relationships with each other as well. This will also help us build more equitable systems in our school in collaboration with our students, families, and community.

Review this module about the critical importance of building relationships in the classroom: 

Teaching with Equity & Bias in Mind

Our week at MGI involved continuous conversations about equity in our teaching practices and educational policies and systems. Supporting students as they develop the ability to recognize and respond to inequity and bias is absolutely critical. We believe that this unit helped to provide the context that students needed to recognize biases in themselves and others and start to respond to those biases with confidence and conviction.

Providing Context & Relevance to PLPs

The greatest failure of PLPs statewide has been the lack of commitment to making the PLP process an authentic and meaningful experience for students rather than a checklist of requirements without context or relevance. We continued to hear this from dozens of educators at MGI again last year, and we too felt this way. However, some schools are not only achieving success with PLPs, they are flourishing! The common thread between these success stories is authenticity. We MUST find a way to make this process engaging and authentic. The platform is irrelevant. Anything can be uploaded to a digital platform, so that should not be the focal point of our work. The process is what matters to students, and it is the foundation for us, as educators, who want to use this work to better understand our students, their strengths, their needs, and the pathways we must take to build positive relationships with them and adapt our practices to meet them where they are.

Engaging Families & the Community

We are trying to routinely engage families in the PLP process, in addition to engaging them more in the daily aspects of school. So far we have completed:

Our future plans include:

(Above: Photos of GHOSt projects from the 2017-2018 school year)