I have been thinking a lot about the importance of choice lately. Recently, I ran into the parent of a child I previously taught, and it reminded me of a moment when I gave an answer to her child that I now regret.
Last spring, at the end of a unit of study about plants, I asked my students, as a culminating project, to make an artifact of some kind to show their learning. We wanted to put this artifact on our blog, so we talked about several tools that they could use to show their learning. I no longer remember all of the options, but I know they included writing an article for their blog, drawing a picture to post on their blog, making a book using Storybird and making a video using Sketchcast. I wanted them to have a choice of what was best for them to use.
One boy came up to me to ask if he could use Vocaroo, the voice recording tool we were using that year. To my shame, I said “no”. I think my reasoning was that I wanted him to have the opportunity to practice using text, and all of the other options could have included written words.
What you need to know about this child is that although he is verbally bright, he has a severe text disability, so severe that he could recognize only about 20 words by the end of grade one. Obviously, anything involving text brings him great frustration.
Fortunately, it did not take long for me to come to my senses and assure this child that using a voice recording of his learning was indeed an option for him, but my shame in my moment of realization made a deep impact on me.
I will never forget our short conversation because of my emotional response and because it made me stop and re-evaluate what I was doing as a teacher who says she values choice. All of us have strengths and weaknesses, and while it is important for us (and our students) to work on those things that we are not good at, it is also important for us to have a chance to show our learning using a medium that can help us to best capture that knowledge.
If the choices don’t include all students in a way that is relevant to them, is it really choice?