Magazine article AMLE Magazine

What's in Your Backpack?

Magazine article AMLE Magazine

What's in Your Backpack?

Article excerpt

Today's students enter the classroom carrying not only a physical backpack, but also a figurative backpack full of prior classroom experiences, both positive and negative, as well as individual learning experiences and learning styles. The student's home life, family status, birth order, friendships, joys, struggles, and worries add to its weight.

Some students' backpacks are heavy, obviously weighing them down; others' backpacks seem lighter. These are the students whose home life is happy, whose parents are supportive, and whose youthful innocence is still intact.

Teachers, too, walk into their classrooms each day with backpacks bearing the weight of their own personal learning, losses, joys, and frustrations. And just as schools make intentional efforts to unpack the students' backpacks, they should do the same for teachers.

What history and burdens does each teacher carry into the classroom? What educational experiences, friendships, hurts, and joys shaped each teacher into the professional he or she has become and is developing into? When teachers are able to identify and articulate an awareness of their own experiences, they can better understand and connect with their students.

Parker Palmer affirms in his book, A Hidden Wholeness, that good work is relational. The following activities are helpful tools to cultivate a teacher's personal backpack awareness and strengthen relationships with students:

* Write about your own educational history. The exercise provides a powerful opportunity for teachers to identify the kind of learners they were in K-12 settings. …

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