Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Robot Initiation

For the third time in not very many weeks, I am watching the sunrise through a school bus window. I am taking about a dozen kids on a two hour bus ride that begins before the day does so we can do our first testing of our robot on an actual game course.

This is where I have been the last two months.

Way back last spring, I asked a couple kids if they would be interested in doing the Team America Rocketry Challenge. I got one wishy washy maybe. The other kid said he was kind of more into robots now, so I shelved that particular project.

Sometime this summer, I received some information about the BEST Robotics competition, so, on a whim, I went to my principal in August and asked if we could start a Robotics Team.

Now, I totally expected him to be cautious, tell me to wait a year, find out more about the program.

He said, "Sure, go for it."

Um...okay...right...I need a team.

Well, lucky (?) for me, I was coaching cross country at the time. So sitting around after practice one day, I recruited a good number of my runners to join my robotics team.

Looking back, I can't believe they all said yes. I was going into this blind and had no true information to give them about what we would be doing.

Kids: What are we going to do?
Me: Build a robot.
Kids: How?
Me: I don't know.
Kids: What does the robot have to do?
Me: I don't know.
Kids: How long will it take?
Me: I don't know.
Kids: What else do we have to do?
Me: I don't know.
Kids: Awesome! Let's do it!

Seriously, I had no idea what all was involved. I had no idea what all it took to build a robot. I had no idea that you had to do other things in addition to building the robot.

What I had was an amazing group of kids who were willing to follow me on this adventure and were totally okay with all of us learning together.

Our motto this year: "We'll figure it out..."

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.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Teacher Tip #6



Under any circumstances...

...sponsor more than one activity at the same time.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

How To Destroy a Really Good Idea

Present it in a powerpoint presentation with 293 slides.

My Menu