Learning is personal, by its very nature. I teach all day long about the importance of voice, of knowing what you are thinking, and then being able to show that thinking. I dedicate two bulletin boards to the idea. I spend the year modelling, teaching, drawing attention to voice. I tell them that I should be learning something about them when I read their work. Actually, I tell them that, more importantly, they should be learning something about themselves through their writing. I push them to show how their thinking has changed.
I explain that if I write the response questions, or tell them what is important about a text (and sometimes I do), I am showing MY thinking. When they ask the questions and decide what is important, then they are showing their thinking. That work is always the most interesting to read.
Our students are dealing with huge issues. They are entering a time of life when more and more they are in charge of what will happen in any given situation. They need practice thinking about how they will respond to bullies, to drug-dealers, to pushy friends, to community controversies, to unreasonable adults, and reasonable adults. They need to be become citizens of the globe. They are getting ready to make career choices. They are going to be parents. They need to know what they think and why. When they know what they think, they have the power to show that thinking. It’s personal.
(There is a list of educators that impacted my thinking and teaching in this direction – Faye Brownlie, Layton Schnellert, to name a few. I am deeply grateful for their work in this area.)