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Empowering Through Education by Judianne Jayme

Back to the future –

the importance of strength-based learning

by Judianne Jayme

Every time I look at my students, I question my practices, my resources and my approach. These kids do not all fit the traditional educational model of paper-and-pen (and they shouldn’t). How do I make sure I’m not doing them a disservice by not properly preparing them for the future?

Where am I going with this?

Any jobs today that have to do with social media, informational technology, and innovative technology did not exist 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago for some fields. In a world that is so rapidly changing, how do I prepare students to be job-ready for jobs that don’t exist yet?

I’m taking metacognition (learning about learning) into play. For students to be prepared for a future job market of endless opportunities that we cannot even conceive in our heads yet, they need to know how they learn. They need to know what they’re passionate about. They need to understand what their strengths are and how to work with those strengths to reach learning goals.

Enter Genius Hour, a program modeled after the idea of the “20% Time” initiated by Google, that my mentee has been implementing for the past few years (the benefits of collaborative collegial learning). Genius Hour is using 20% of your day (for us in the school system, that’s roughly one hour) in which students pursue their passions. They devise a plan that they are curious about. They ask questions, and then they seek to answer them. This isn’t choice time – they aren’t playing for fun. The parameters of Genius Hour are to further their learning in any of the subject matters we are currently studying. In the world of Google, this has led to the creation, for example, of Gmail. In a classroom, this could lead to a student understanding more about the complexities of bacterial adaptations. We are developing thinkers and problem finders – infinitely curious minds ready to explore outside of the box.

Parent Tip: Genius Hour at home

Encourage your child to pursue their passions. Try setting up an hour a week for them to do something they truly enjoy. A big trend currently for middle years and younger is creating slime to play with – maybe challenge them to find different ways to make slime! Whatever it is that they’re passionate about, give them the time and opportunity to pursue it – and encourage them the whole way!

Judianne Jayme is an educator teaching sixth grade and a division-wide mentor in the Winnipeg School Division.

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