Being respectful is my baseline, so I very rarely vent for fear of being disrespectful to a hardworking teaching. However,today I have something I’d like to vent about because my blood truly boils when I hear teachers sell their students short with statements like these:
- My kids can’t do that.
- This is too challenging for my students.
- They’re too young for this responsibility.
- They’re not going to get this.
Kids are amazing. They can do lots of things that we don’t think they can. They’re resilient and willing to try out new things, even when we aren’t. They may need a little bit of support and a little bit of training, but kids can be taught pretty much anything with the right supports. But here’s the thing, kids also believe us when we tell them “You’re too young.” They listen to us when they say “You’re not ready for this.” or “This is too hard.” They listen to our words and they listen to our action. So, as teachers, it’s our job to tell them:
- You can do this!
- Let’s think of a way we can solve this problem.
- This problem is difficult, but if you try hard enough, you can solve it.
- Think positively!
I have taught Kindergarten students to use Power Point, First Graders to create online posters, Second Graders to blog, Third Graders to e-mail, Fourth Graders to create websites and Fifth Graders to create videos. I have taught low income students with very little background knowledge to make inferences. I have taught students with learning disabilities to work through word problems. I have taught spoiled, rich kids to think compassionately about others. I’ve used a flipped classroom model with students as young as second grade. Each time I have tackled a new challenge someone said to me “Those kids can’t do that.”, but guess what, that wasn’t true. My kids did it, and did it well, often better than I thought they would.
Now, I’m not saying we can (or should) be teaching Algebra to kindergarteners. But if a challenge is put in front of our students, I believe that it is our job, as teachers to try and help them meet that challenge. I also believe that the more we believe in our students, the more they will believe in themselves. We’ve all heard of the study where half of teachers in a school were told that their average class was a class full of gifted students? The students whose teachers thought they were gifted did better on test scores, on projects and overall than the other students, even though they started out the same. Those students weren’t any smarter or any more gifted, they simply had teachers who believed in their abilities. Teachers who in turn pushed them and let them try out new more challenging things because they had this idea in their head that “These kids can handle this.” and they could. Kids can do amazing things if we let them.
So, when you walk into your classroom tomorrow, tell yourself that “ALL students can learn and succeed – not on the same day or in the same way.” (quote from William G. Spady) Then, tell your students that they can succeed and push them to do just that.