My daughters’ elementary school was recently awarded “Lighthouse School” status by the Covey Institute. This is a big deal for our region, let alone the teachers and students who have worked tirelessly to cross all of the t’s and dot all of the i’s that the program requires. And although I have been passively following their progress as a parent (most of my educator energy has been expelled in preparing for the upcoming spring semester and conference proposals), I wasn’t prepared for the inspiration that I would experience while attending a parent/teacher conference. One sentence in particular shook my core, in the best of ways.
One Student’s Personal Mission Statement
My 10 year old was required to write a personal mission statement as a part of her leadership notebook. It resonated with me so much that I asked her if I could use it as my own. She was delighted and approved my request. I asked her if I could share it with others because maybe they would like to use it as their own. That made her even happier. I think it’s worth sharing with as many people as possible. (*I should preface the following by explaining that each student had to draft personal mission statements individually. Not collectively.)
Validation as a Theoretical Framework
I’m assuming that my daughter has not kept up on research associated with validation theory in education, so it goes without saying that my initial response to her statement was shock. At 10 years old, she has the wisdom to recognize her own voice in relation to the voice of others, which does not come without a high level of awareness. This awareness does not come from being published, from receiving extraordinary recognition, or even from an advanced level of education. Point-in-case: Many of my colleagues, well-renowned professors in their fields, cannot grasp the concept of validation as a theoretical framework for classroom instruction. (For a more thorough synopsis of the theoretical framework of validation, review these collected works: Validating Students: A Conceptualization and Overview of Its Impact on Student Experiences and Outcomes.)
Simple actions are needed to practice liberatory pedagogy - recognize the importance of learning students’ names, thoroughly revamp curriculum to mirror the cultural make-up of a class, and never dismiss students as legitimate partners in learning. Students need to be seen, heard, and recognized. Regardless of level, if a teacher fails to validate a student, he/she has failed. In my book, that teacher is not a teacher, but simply a figure. Validation theory is cyclical in that validation breeds validation. In other words, when students are not given a voice (validated), they are unable to give a voice to others. To refuse a voice is to refuse humanistic, effective, liberatory pedagogy. And boy am I proud that my daughter has picked up on the importance of voice and validation. My own teaching practice is invigorated knowing that she has made it her personal mission to advocate for others.
Validate Students So They Can Validate Others
I have been prepping for a course on Digital Storytelling (more to come on technoliteracy.org as the course gets underway), work that preceded my daughter’s parent/teacher conference by at least 3 months. My collective, dis-connected research on narrative inquiry is now solidified thanks to my newly borrowed personal mission statement. Isn’t it amazing how simplistic a child can make things? And it really is simple. In all of my classes, all I ever want to do is help students find their voices. I already have mine and I know how to share it. It’s their turn. What better mission could a teacher possibly have than validating their students so they in turn can validate others?
(*A big thank you to my wise kid. No amount of education could ever compete with what you teach me on a daily basis.)