Right now I’m sitting in a hotel room at a Best Western in Barrie, Ontario. My daughter Adrienne and I have just returned from an information session and portfolio review for the digital photography program at Georgian College (indulge me in a proud Mommy moment – they said her portfolio was the strongest they’ve seen – yay!). Current students from several of the design and visual arts programs took a few minutes to talk about why they chose the college over others, what they love about the school, etc. Although I was there as a mom (did I tell you what they said about Adrienne’s portfolio?), my educator hat kept popping on. Every single student spoke to the significance of having close contact with their teachers, the immediate, personal feedback they get on their work, and how this combination of teacher contact and constructive feedback has helped them grow as students and increased their confidence to step out into their respective fields.
I’ve heard teachers say that they need to prepare students for high school, or post-secondary, or the work force by stepping back and not “babying” students. Or say that giving explicit feedback is unrealistic as the students move on in school: “This is grade 6. I shouldn’t have to hold his hand. They’re not going to do this for him in middle school.” Or, “She’s in high school now. Do you think her college or university professors are going to invest this much time in each of their students?” Maybe not all professors, and maybe not all post-secondary institutions. But many certainly are. And students notice it, appreciate it, and credit it for their growth and achievements. When teachers look that far ahead, they lose sight of what’s in front of them. They’ve given themselves permission to relinquish the responsibility of what is essentially the core of effective teaching, and called it “preparing them for the real world”. Yes, teachers prepare students for the real world, but by teaching them, in schools, by investing in the use of effective strategies that yield lasting results. Not by just throwing them out of the nest and waiting for them to fly.
Oh, and did I tell you what they said about Adrienne’s portfolio?