Working with Forest Ridge Students as the Learning Specialist
Meg Black, Upper School Learning Support Specialist

Last week, I was invited into Ms. Rice’s English 1 classes, which was a wonderful way for me to get to know all of our 9th grade students. It was an especially good week to be joining them, as it was Frosh week, so all of them were wearing fun hats decorated to reflect some part of their unique personality and the gifts they bring to our school community. While being a learning support specialist means that it can be a bit harder for me to get to know all the students, it also means that I have the flexibility to join classes to see what they are working on and provide help as needed. In English 1, they were working on reflections about their favorite quote and providing each other with peer feedback. 

Peer feedback can be such a challenge to both give and receive. We started with my own example so they could practice and get to know me a little better. I encouraged honesty and openness, acknowledging that I found errors and areas for improvement even while reading my writing aloud to them. Ms. Rice had gracefully structured this activity into “Wows” (things that impressed them) and “Wonders” (things that might need improvement). The students were generous with their wows and thoughtful in their wonders. They highlighted their favorite sentence of their peer’s work. They wrote specific questions they were left wondering. At the end of class, they thanked each other for being brave and sharing their writing with each other.  

This activity reminded me of an aphorism that I constantly emphasize with students in my work as a learning support specialist. We all have strengths and weaknesses. One of the best skills we can cultivate is utilizing our strengths to help us improve and grow. Being new to a school (whether you are a new freshman or a faculty member) brings a lot of questions right alongside just as many opportunities for growth. This school year, I will strive to embrace the wonders on the way to the wows!