Personalization is a set of practices and norms that enable adults to know students well and support students based on their knowledge of students’ needs. Common elements of a personalized school include: advisory, purposeful relationship building between staff and students, looping, small schools (or learning communities), student voice, student leadership opportunities in school-wide decision making, connections to community, and parent engagement. Personalization happens when schools support students’ social-emotional skill development through relationship building to help the students transform their mindset and persist through obstacles. Instead of students being forced to adapt to a top-down, rigid set of rules, students are welcomed into a space that is culturally relevant, responsive, and receptive. The school is organized in such a way that takes into consideration the needs, personalities, and interests of the students in meaningful and intentional ways.
- Linda Darling-Hammond, Social Emotional Learning
- Students Love Life. Life Academy, that is
- Coalition for Essential Schools – Building 21st Century Schools
- Deeper Learning at City Arts & Tech
Questions for reflection:
Relationship Building Among Staff and Students
1) What structures are in place to encourage meaningful and supportive relationships among students, staff, and administration (e.g., community meetings, advisory, looping, etc.)? How do you know if they are achieving the goals of building relationships?
2) How well do you know each child in your classroom (e.g., knowledge of friends, interests, educational and career goals, family structure, special needs, etc.)? How do you assess the quality of your relationships with your students?
3) Is there at least one adult on your campus who would defend the right of EACH student to be at your school? Who would say, “This kid has potential and I will fight for them”?
4) How do you know if students feel a connection to adults in your school?
5) Does the school facilitate student connections to the wider community outside of school?
6) What supports and training do you receive on how to build relationships with students and create a safe culture in their classroom?
7) How do you adapt and adjust curriculum and instruction based on your knowledge of your students?
8) How are students’ interests reflected in the culture of your classroom?
9) How do you help foster students’ ability to persist through challenges?
School-Wide Structures that Foster Personalization
10) How does your school foster continuous relationships between teachers and students through looping or other means?
11) How do you use your knowledge of your students to inform how you interact with them?
12) In what ways do you celebrate students (as whole people, not just for their academic success) in your school and classroom?
13) How do you know if students feel connected to school? How do you help those who do not feel connected build that attachment?
14) What kinds of decisions do students get to make or contribute to at your school and in your classroom? Are these decisions just about their own experience (e.g., how they will present their learning) or will these decisions impact other students (e.g., a new grading policy)?
15) On what topics and under what circumstances do adult educators solicit the opinions of their students? How institutionalized is this practice?
Connections to Parents
16) How do you build and maintain trust with parents? How do you assess it?
17) What opportunities do parents have to contribute to decision making in your school? What kinds of decisions do they get to make?
18) How do you include parents in their children’s learning process?
19) How are parents celebrated?
20) How do you convey to parents how much they are valued?