Monday, July 27, 2015

How Do You React to Children Who Call You to be Better?

Every summer there's a child or two you think about. He or she sticks around in your mind because they called you to do or be something that you weren't able to be or didn't do.

Those children who stick around in your mind like this typically have something to teach you, something to spur you forward with teaching/learning.

You could deny the challenge these children bring to you. You could ignore their words, actions, and requests, or you could take these kids seriously and work to remedy the issue they presented to do better with children like them next year.

For me, one child who inspired me, is a child who was very, very interested in current events and history, particularly events and history related to the African American Experience. That's what he wanted to learn about and that's what he wanted to talk about. My partner teacher often met his need by finding great books for him, and giving him a chance to talk and read about his interests. In my class, we often talked about current events using Flocabulary's Week in Review as a catalyst to the discussions.

Yet when we walked along the Freedom Trail in Boston and he mentioned that we needed to include the stories of famous African Americans more often in our curriculum, I took that seriously. Also when he became frustrated during STEAM lab, I took that seriously too. This summer I'm doing some research and working on new ideas to meet this boy's inspiration.

Another child in my class was a tech enthusiast who knew a lot about technology. He aced all the standardized tests and had a knowledge level that typically exceeded most of the students and teachers too. While this child was often engaged, I think I could have done a better job. For one, he most wanted time to talk about his ideas. He also needed more mentors that knew what he knew about technology, gaming, and invention. He was hungry to use his intelligence to do something of merit, something big, something wonderful.

As a team, we met his needs in many ways. He wrote tremendous stories. He made movies. He presented to the class and shared his knowledge, but I think I could have done more, and I'm thinking about how I can better meet the needs of these very bright, eager, and tech savvy students. For one I'll invite small groups of students to lunch so I can learn about them more and give them a greater chance to talk. That will help me to create more opportunities to meet their needs. My partner teacher found success with this approach and I noticed how the students loved it.

We have to think carefully about those that meet us with discontent, new ideas, and inspiration for greater growth. Instead of dismissing their energy and sometimes frustration, we can really dig in and think about why this occurs and how we can better respond to learners like this.

Let your students inspire you; meet their needs with your best possible work, and continue to grow and develop your craft. That matters when it comes to teaching and learning well.