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Sunday, November 06, 2016

Teaching for Life


I heard a story of a child who was having great difficulty at high school.

I had experienced similar stories with people in my own world growing up.

My heart ached as I knew this child to be a good hearted, earnest child. It's rare to see a child who does not want to do his/her best, and when that happens there's typically a painful story behind the child's actions.

So when I think about teaching children today, I'm thinking about life.

Each time I make a decision, I will ask the question, Will this positively impact his/her life or not?

For example I once had a student that didn't follow directions too often. He liked to do his own thing. Instead of chastising, I'd say, "Go out and shoot some hoops and then come back and get to work." That resulted in about a 5-10 minute delay whereas if I had chastised the child, it could have resulted in a day or more of added disruption and difficulty. Five minutes or a whole day, which break in learning is preferable? Of course, the five minutes.

Too often in schools we choose for the day or near future rather than life.

Another example is making Response to Intervention (RTI) groups. Sometimes it's worth giving a child who may score higher than others, the opportunity for a small, well supported group. Sometimes that extra attention at that time will serve to give a child the chance to leap ahead. When you provide that short term intervention, you may get a long term gain that lasts the child's whole life since he/she has had the chance to work with an extraordinary educator in a small group at a time when that's exactly what he or she needs. This kind of decision may not fit tight protocols, but instead use intuition, experience, and the long view to recognize this is the right decision for the moment.

When we give more to some at specific times in their learning history, we make more time and learning for all. This is an algorithm that would match the picture at the top of the page. It's often a difficult algorithm to advocate for, but one I know to work when it comes to loving, caring, and kind support and advocacy. What would you add to this discussion?