Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Best Thing This Teacher Does

Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best. 

-Bob Talbert
My first few years of teaching taught me how to give direction that lasts -- the kind of direction that isn't followed by the same question asked by five students every period. I guess I didn't want to become one of those teachers who complains about kids asking questions, like it's not already my job to give answers and be there for them.

This week's #youredustory topic is about the best thing I do in my classroom. The best thing I do is remind myself that I work with kids and that they need me to help them find their path to adulthood. But they are not adults, so I don't treat them as such and certainly don't impose adult expectations.

What does it mean to be a kid?

Kids are often more brilliant than they realize. They just don't know it yet because they haven't been validated enough or given the opportunity to explore their strengths. The hard part is finding out what their intelligences are if they're not obvious.

A lot of the "problematic" kids often have lots of interests that aren't valued as much in many classrooms. These kids might do well making their own map instead completing the worksheet with it already drawn for them. They might jump at the opportunity to share a series of paragraphs that represent how their point of view has changed since the beginning of a lesson, especially if it's published on their blog and receives feedback from the teacher or their peers.

My approach to minding kids requires learning about their intellectual capacities, work habits, and interests to offer better opportunities that meet them where they are and push them to achieve more. That's all I can control. Its their education. I won't force it on them.

What does it mean to be an adult? 

Our ideas about adulthood depend on whether we think about maturity in terms of ideal types. Let's face it. We're not exactly perfect. Adults need similar reminders and motivators, as do kids, to arrive on time, turn in reports, and learn about new expectations.  

Adults, however, have a more developed frontal lobe that helps decision making and problem solving. It is our job, as classroom teachers, to design opportunities for kids to develop these abilities in an environment safe from economic risk or from situations in which others are counting on them for survival.

How will they know when they've found their path?

For many kids, they come back to visit during college breaks or send a message on Facebook to tell you that they found their thing, or at least their thing for now. The fact that they mention it to you should be the feedback you need as a teacher to be reassured that what you are do is working.