Saying “NO!” to Dehumanization With Face-to-Face Conversation

Posted on November 3, 2018


Lately, I have been feeling a vague angst over the way that tech giants have taken over education in ways that harm students and society.

A question has lurked in the shadows of my consciousness. What can I, a classroom teacher, do in the face of this Grendel? How can I slay this monster?

I know I’m powerless in many ways. Daily, signs appear that we, students, teachers, all of us–are being dehumanized at a breakneck pace.

On the other hand, there are actions I can take to humanize and celebrate EVERY individual student in my courses–by emphasizing human interaction. By providing students with a workshop environment that emphasizes choice, voice, communication, collaboration, reflection, and decision-making, I can foster the physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being of each of my students in practical ways.


EMWP Family Fun Literacy Workshop, Onsted Elementary

One way I can humanize the learning process is through asking students to reflect on their own goals and progress toward them. To this end, I’ve created a document to help move students through the process of deciding how to finish Trimester 1 in a good way. I’ve timed it to fall just after I’ve graded a summative assessment and before a performance assessment–as motivation to perform well. This document is one of several of this type that I use to communicate with parents and administrators–and to help students and parents engage in important conversations.

On the surface, “Make Good Decisions” is a take-home progress report, a collaborative document between the members of the community who care most about the individual student’s success: student, parent, and teacher.

But it is a lot more than that.

It is a complex weaving of several strands in my work, as well as being:

  1. A tool for reflection, goal-setting, and empowerment for students to end the tri in a good way
  2. A catalog of resources for students and parents
  3. A way to inform parents of student progress and show that I did
  4. An assurance for students that the adults around them are aware of the situation and want to help the student find ways to be successful
  5. An evaluation artifact: teachers must incorporate technology and PBIS; this is evidence I do; it also shows that I donate my time and money to the school community for the benefit of my students
  6. A reflection on my teaching practice
  7. Advocacy for Reader’s and Writer’s workshop; for interdisciplinary studies; for mindfulness and self-care; for inquiry, voice, and choice; for reflection and thoughtful decision-making; for IB values & pedagogy; for networking in professional organizations; and for the benefits of teachers who can afford to live and work in a community for the length of their career
  8. A rebuttal to those who fear that students are indoctrinated in some way in my courses
  9. A response to adolescents’ need explicit instruction on how to successfully engage in decision-making and learning processes
  10. A public relations document for my district with evidence of personalized learning for every student

This take-home progress report has several purposes and audiences, from self-awareness to educational advocacy. By layering in meanings, I can empower a simple, practical classroom document to speak out against the harm of dehumanization.

We, as humans, must know how to talk to one another to function as a human society. To foster face-t0-face conversation, I center it in my classroom practice: through reading conferences, writing conferences, behavior conferences, parent-teacher conferences, talking circles, cooperative team presentations, individual presentations, and Friday Fun Open Mic.

“Make Good Decisions,” is one attempt to foster conversation between students and the adults who want to see them succeed. As a parent myself, I hope that parents will find it helpful in negotiating important conversations about their student’s educational goals and responsibilities.

And this is how, through a take-home progress report, I am fighting Grendel.


Through words, not swords.

The document can be found HERE. Classroom teachers are welcome to copy and adapt!

Be well, readers. Until next time!