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21st Century Skills - Competencies without a Classroom Podcast - Episode 13 Recap

S2 E13: Jonathan So - @MrSoclassroom
Griffin Jaeger
April 22, 2021

In our 13th #21for21 episode of Competencies without a Classroom we sit down with the incredible Jonathan So, a K-8 Teacher for the Peel district school board. Jonathan has a math resource central role, with a large focus on learning environments. He is devoted to helping teachers dismantle anti-black racism and racism in their school board.

Jonathan understands the importance of relationship building and encouraging students to be their true authentic selves, bringing genuine emotions and true identities into the classroom.

What can you borrow from Jonathan for your classroom to help teach 21st-century skills?

Jonathan is a strong believer in going gradeless, which is why he has taken that shift and implemented it into his grade two to six classrooms.

Jonathan believes that teachers have such privilege and power to play a role in how students see themselves as learners, and assessment is where that power is exerted. When a grade is given, it is often the only thing students pay attention to. But the real growth comes from true feedback and personalized comments.

In his classroom, Jonathan asks students to look at the curriculum and metacognitively reflect on how they feel they are doing. He brings students' voices into the assignments he assigns by asking them what they think, and what goals and expectations should be met.

Then they can continue to practice self-reflection by asking themselves - am I meeting these goals? Am I growing with the learning targets? If not, how am I going to get there?

By setting small goals and focusing on true feedback, Jonathan's students show strong progression, they start to see themselves in a different light. The focus becomes less on the grade itself, and more on the constructive feedback provided.

What are your thoughts on the #goinggradeless movement? Let us know on Twitter using the hashtag #21for21 and tagging us @Competenciespodcast

Reflection Prompts for Your Students

Use the prompts below to have your students reflect on what they heard in the episode and consider how Jonathan’s advice can be applied to them.

  1. By going gradeless, Jonathan’s class of students can focus on setting small goals for learning progression. Aside from grades, set 3 learning goals for yourself. How are you going to work to ensure you meet these goals? What 21st-century skills or competencies are involved in achieving your goals?
  2. Damian believes that grades do more harm than good in a 21st-century world. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?
  3. Jonathan believes in the value of critical thinking and considering how our personal biases affect the way we look at information. As a student, how can you put this into practice?
  4. As an arts student, Jonathan was given independence but felt as though he could have benefited from learning about the freedom to make mistakes. Describe a mistake you encountered in and out of school. How did this mistake push you to move forward and learn from your experience? What did you take away from this?

Yearning for more? You’re in luck! We’ll be speaking to educators all month long about #21for21 and the development of 21st-century skills in the classroom. Join the fun and head over to to sign up for episode recaps, lesson plans, and chances to win some awesome prizes.


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