Choice Leads to Success as Life Long Learners

By Rose Langridge  – Senior Social Studies, History and English Teacher;- High School

Imagine that it is a hot day. The heat is rising up off the pavement, your clothes are stuck to you and all you want is ice cream. Luckily, there is a dairy ahead. You walk in and go to order but there is only one flavour on offer; the one that you don’t really like at all (for me that is rum and raisin) but you have to have ice cream so you take it. Your choice has been taken away and I am certain that you would not be happy about it.

As adults we are constantly making choices but most importantly we have the option to make these choices. We even can complain about all these decisions.

I would like you to spare a thought for those who cannot make these choices. Think of students engaging with school content. I remember being told as a class we were all learning the same thing and we were all being assessed on the same thing in the same way.

I am so very glad that our classes look nothing like the ones I had at school. The focus is on agency. In senior humanities the class makes choices about the topics that they look at and where there is the room, they have varying ways of showcasing their learning.

There is movement as the year continues, if a topic of interest comes up then we can learn about this.

The level two class has deadpan discussions about the earth being flat and how no one has landed on the moon. What this has ended up looking like is that I have ordered at tee-shirt that says “stand up for science” and the focus next term will be conspiracy theories.

Every single day at Wā Ora, ākonga make choices about their learning, be it what materials to work with in preschool, what big stories to listen to and lessons to attend in primary through to what topics to engage with at a deeper level in the high school.

Because our students are taking responsibility for their learning, they are evolving the skills to learn independently. This means that they are developing true agency and taking ownership of their learning journey.

In Montessori high schools the staff are referred to as guides, which I think is very telling. It is no surprise whatsoever that all the current research shows that agency and achievement go hand and hand.

I would like to quote Philip Bell, one of the school alumni, from his leaver’s speech last year. “At Wā Ora they do not teach us; they show us how to learn”. It is something that has stuck with me and something I try to take into the classroom every day. I love learning with and about my class and am so very happy to guide them on their journey towards being lifelong learners.