In the past five years or so I have noticed a difference in what I have been reading about education, both online and in professional journals and books. I’ve not decided for sure if this is really new or just new to me nor have I decided if it’s really as widespread as I’d like to think. I’ve noticed a focus on building on students’ strengths, what they do know or can do, rather than focusing on the deficits or what they don’t know or can’t yet do. To me when I first noticed it, it felt like a major shift. It’s not happening across the board by any stretch, but I’m seeing it more and more and am becoming more and more capable of using such a lens without a lot of thought. So this piece from Dan Meyer struck me as being in that vein. He writes about how his young children make mistakes or make their misconceptions visible and he responds in a way that recognizes what they do know in order to make that mistake or have that misconception.
I find it easy to build connections from their answer to the correct answer. “But an artichoke is greener, larger, and softer. People often eat it and people don’t often eat pinecones.”
However, if I’m teaching a math lesson and a student answers a question about math incorrectly, my reflex is to become …
… evaluative … “What did I just hear? Is it right or wrong?”
… anxious … “Oh no it’s wrong. What do I do now?”
… corrective … “How do I fix this answer and this student?”
This feels like the shift I’m working on every day (or would be if I were with my students). A shift to helping them build connections from their current understanding to a deeper or more accurate understanding rather than evaluating or correcting their understanding. Dan’s reflections helped me to reflect more.
On a different note, if you’re looking for something uplifting to read in these chaotic, uncertain times and you haven’t been following the blog, One Good Thing, you now have the opportunity to go back and read through previous posts. It’s one of my favorite things to read regularly and I will be missing it while schools are closed. Rebecka Peterson writes more consistently there than anyone else. She teaches high schoolers and the math she discusses far exceeds my understanding. But it doesn’t matter because she teaches students and her love for them and her dedication to them is what shines in every post. Posts on One Good Thing often make me smile or laugh and this one moved me to tears. The work we do matters and it can be easy to lose sight of that in the midst of everything. This is a beautiful reminder.
And a couple of twitter threads that really got me. (I have mixed feelings about twitter threads. That’s not critical to anything but I felt a need to note it.)
This first one is from Kimberly Manning, MD. I do not know her or follow her on twitter. Someone shared this thread (and I can’t remember for sure who). I was struck not only by the bigger message of the thread about prejudice and stereotyping and bias but also with the beautiful writing. Dr. Manning told a story in this thread and pulled me in immediately.
The other thread is another by someone I don’t know or follow. Again, shared by someone else and I can’t recall who. (My system for this clearly has some flaws…) This thread is from Jess Morales Rocketto and hit all my feminist keys. As a woman this thread energized me. As a white woman this thread highlighted things I could be doing far better around racism and homophobia. It’s a thread I knew I wanted to hang on to and refer back to.
And finally, related to that last thread but funny, is this piece from McSweeney’s. I read large parts of it out loud to my 16 and 13 year olds and we laughed and felt pain. But we figure it’s good to laugh because the other option is to cry.
A guy walks into a bar. It’s a low one, so he gets a raise within his first six months on the job.
What’s completely original but said by two different people? My idea that Greg just repeated louder.
If your name is Greg, that piece may read as far less funny…