For those of you who know me, you already are aware that I'm the father of 4 kids (9, 5, 2 yr old twins) and know that balancing life and work is always tricky. Last night, my 5 year old daughter, Eva, and my wife went to see the live performance of Mary Poppins. The two of them were accompanied by my mom, my two sisters and my two nieces for what they called their girls night out. The performance ended close to 10:00 pm, so by the time they arrived back home, I was already sound asleep. This morning, my daughter came bouncing out of her bedroom, eager to tell me all about the "flying lady" and the "amazing songs". She talked about the performance with smiling eyes, and summed it all up by saying, "after all, anything is possible dad, if you let it!"
Such prophetic words. Anything is possible...if you let it.
I started thinking about how we approach learning, both adult learning and student learning. Do you believe that anything is possible? When you look at all your students, do you believe all of them can achieve at a high level? When you think about yourself, do you set limits on what you think you can do? If so, where did these limits come from? What evidence do you have that you cannot learn to really high levels?
Here is a task you might want to undertake in private, for I doubt you would ever tell anyone how you "rank" your students, even if it is done though instinct or what others call their gut feelings. The task is to think about the students currently in your class, and think about how you have ranked them based on your belief of how deeply each of them can learn. Likely many of you reading this will say you do not rank your students in this manner, which is great, however it has been my experience that many teachers do, and this evidence often reveals itself through subtle comments, usually in the staff room or in my office. That being said, we all have students who are achieving at different levels in our classrooms, and what I'd ask you do is only focus on what you are:
a. doing to help close the achievement gap for the students who come out on the low end of your unofficial scale
b. not doing to help close the achievement gap for the students who come out on the low end of your unofficial scale
After you have done that, simply ask yourself why. Why are you doing what you are doing, and why are you not doing some things that might help.
I get it, we are all busy, and all the students in our class need help at some point. But, if we are creating excuses for why we are not closing the gap for these struggling students, then I think we need to evaluate what we are doing in our room and how we can change our approach to learning. Sometimes all we need to do is ask for help, we cannot pretend to know the answer to every question, nor the solution to every problem.
Larry Leverett_ writes, "it is time to reject the myths that provide excuses for action. It's time to stop blaming the victims, relying on non-school factors to excuse our performance in schools, and accepting the poppycock that closing the achievement gap is a problem without a solution."
After all, like a 5 year old said, anything is possible dad...if you let it!
As always, comments are welcome.