Monday, October 17, 2011

Teaching "Those Kids"

Warning: Rant ahead.

We have a teacher in our Modeling group who has been grating on my nerves for two years now*. His voice is a constant murmur in the back of the room that never turns off. Kind of like the air conditioner fan.

But that's not what has me upset with him.

We were having a discussion about how to guide our kids through the labs and help them draw conclusions that are close to where we want them to go. Now the whole idea here is that we don't make it obvious that we are guiding them, but that they come into these ideas on their own.

Walk into my room at any hour on any given day and you will generally find about half of my kids have an IEP. Most of the others will be considered at-risk. I don't have books. I have had kids who misspell their own name.

What I have is an engaged (mostly) class.**

My class population has had this profile for several years now and while some teachers in my situation would simply curl up under their desks and cry,*** I decided that this was NOT going to do me in. I was going to persevere and triumph!

So back to the guy in class. His argument was that some of his kids wouldn't be capable of learning without him stepping in and explaining every little thing in detail. They simply couldn't do it.


This is not a student problem. This is a teacher problem. You as a teacher must drop ALL preconceptions you have of any one student or any one disability. These are kids who have been told throughout their education that they can't do it. They aren't smart enough. They're stupid. And they believe it.

Well, I am here to tell you: They can. They are. And no, they are not. Now I am not going to tell you that I have found some magic key that automatically unlocks every child's potential, as much as I wish I could.

What I can tell you is that you (YOU THE TEACHER) are the one that has to convince them otherwise. Never, ever allow a student to get away with calling himself "stupid" or "dumb" or "not smart enough to do this work". It is simply not true.

This is not easy. This is exhausting. Are you going to reach every kid? Nope, sorry. Is it going to matter to one child that you were willing to look past what everyone else sees and help him see himself in a more positive way? Yes. Yes, it will.

*Our awesome Modeling Institute has follow-up online meetings once per month.

**Our English teacher was complaining at lunch one day about having to teach a Remediation class that is a perfect mirror of my regular classes. Welcome to my world :)

***Wait, that was me in 2004.

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