/ October 2, 2023


NHLI occasionally features blogs by students of the Southern New Hampshire University’s Competency-Based Leadership and Learning graduate program. The blog below is a letter that Haley Ryan wrote to teachers to encourage them to focus on student-centered learning and continue their own learning journey.

Dear Teacher,

I see you, and I see the herculean efforts you put into your work. The lesson planning, prep work, teaching engaging lessons, facilitating student learning, creating authentic tasks, giving feedback, grading, communicating with families, making sure the needs of your students are met, and more. You give your students your very best and you wear ALL of the hats. You were born to lead, and I think you’re a natural. 

As we begin the new school year, take a few minutes to reflect on the amazing things you do in your classroom that support student learning and success. Great things are happening in classrooms everywhere, but oftentimes, in isolation. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of teaching and forget our ability to have an even greater impact on students and educators outside of our own four walls. 

I used to think that in order to lead and really make change, I had to leave the classroom and transition to an administrative position. At the same time, I also felt like I was born to teach. There are many ways teachers can lead without having to leave the classroom. 

The great things that you’re doing? Keep doing them! Share them with your colleagues. Ask your students to give feedback and share that feedback with others. Join committees and task forces, attend relevant professional development, and advocate for best practices. You are the expert of your classroom, and your voice matters. 

Research shows that student-centered learning is the direction we must go to best meet the needs of all learners. There are in-person opportunities and experiences in New Hampshire to hone your skills, get inspiration for your classroom, or to collaborate with other educators across the state.

A major element of student-centered learning is a focus on essential skills and dispositions that we hope our students continue to use as they leave school and enter the world. Many districts have partnered with families and communities to collaboratively identify and develop a Portrait of a Learner. Once these traits have been established, schools must work to embed them into daily lessons, performance assessments and portfolios. At the elementary level, these skills must be explicitly taught and students must be given opportunities to practice and reflect. As students get older, these skills and dispositions are increasingly embedded into daily learning and assessment. New Hampshire’s BEST (Building Essential Skills Today) For The Future project aims to provide resources and tools to support teachers in highlighting these skills in classrooms. Educators can access this site and use tools freely, but also have an opportunity to join the team and be a part of the conversation and creation. 

In addition to the BEST project, Agile Classrooms also provides resources and tools to embed 21st century skills and dispositions into the classroom and schools. The framework components of Agile Classroom are making learning visible, facilitating learning sprints, and to grow collaboration and choice. These three elements support learner agency and student-centered learning. The New Hampshire Learning Initiative has organized competency-based learning professional development opportunities throughout the state address grading and equity, essential skills, project-based learning, intentional assessment, and NGSS science phenomena.  

As students transition to the middle and high school levels, there is a focus on next steps and future planning. Senate Bill 276, referred to as the Career Readiness Drive to 65 Act, requires New Hampshire students entering high school to participate in career interest assessment surveys. Schools are asked to work with students to find or create learning pathways to support student interest. The New Hampshire Future Learning Pathways team is a great opportunity to collaborate with other educators and districts across the state through in-person meetings and conferences. They also partner with districts and support the development and implementation of K-12 career pathways systems to support personalizing student learning. 

Another major component of student-centered learning is assessment. Research shows that using the formative assessment process and authentic performance assessments positively impacts students, as they promote equity and agency. New Hampshire has created PLACE teams in the various content areas. PLACE stands for Performance Learning and Assessment Consortium for Educators. Joining a PLACE team provides opportunities to collaborate with other educators across the state to create and revise authentic performance-based learning experiences that are authentic and support student-centered learning.

There are many ways for educators to deepen their knowledge, gain valuable experiences, and collaborate with educators across the state, to support teaching and learning. Our students are lucky to be led by you.

Thank you for all that you do.

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Haley Ryan

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Categories: Agile Classrooms BEST (Building Essential Skills Today) For the Future Career Pathways Performance Assessment PLACE (Performance Learning and Assessment Consortium for Educators) Portrait of a Learner Student-Centered Learning Teacher Leadership

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