Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"How'd you get your kids to do that?"

That was the question asked of me yesterday at the end of the school day.  Another teacher and I were just chitchatting about our days.  The conversation began with her asking, "How was your day?" To which I replied, "It was awesome.  I'm done. I don't have to teach anymore." (We have two weeks left, approx half of a semester). I continued, "I have the students teaching now.  I told them they have taken all this before.  They already know it.  It was time to step up."  To which she asked our title question today.

I was surprised at her disbelief.  Her response was, "My kids are too retarded for that." With that she left the room.  So how did I get my kids to do this?  And for the record, they are doing an AWESOME job.  Their peers are being assessed just as if I had been doing the teaching and they are doing well.  It all began on day 1 when I told them that none of them were stupid.  Most of them were repeating the class in summer school because of poor work ethic, personality clashes with the teachers, and a bunch of other reasons that had nothing to do with their intellectual or academic abilities.  They have been required to synthesize and analyze their knowledge everyday and intelligently write about it.  They have taken part in two other inquiry based projects already this summer.  This was the logical next step.  Getting to do this was actually pretty easy.  They can probably do even more.


  1. Sounds great! A natural development of the way you teach, the way you and your students see learning, the fact that you've created an environment where kids can take control of their own learning. I'm a firm believer kids can do (almost) anything, given the chance. Unless their teacher has no respect for them, no regard for them and little understanding of her role as a teacher or the way learning works. A teacher who says 'My kids are too retarded for that' isn't much of a teacher, in my book.

  2. The sad thing is that this teacher's attitude and beliefs about her students will show in her class. If you treat them as though they're stupid they're going to eventually believe that they are. This is jut unethical and irresponsible in my book!

  3. I did something similar with my 5th grade class. We were studying the Human Body, and each group chose a system to research. They were then going to teach the class. We began by talking about what a good lesson looks/feels like. I made an easy-to-understand UbD planner for them to use, and explained that this is how teachers plan (career awareness?). The kids floored me. Each group taught for at least a double period (if I'd told them they were going to present for 2 hours, they would have flipped). Their activities were varied, interactive, and the whole class was engaged. Many also had and used some neat classroom management strategies. Were there glitches? Sure - but there were plenty of TA-DA moments! My general philosophy is that kids can do so much more than we give them credit for, but this experienced proved that beyond what I could have possibly imagined!

  4. Hi Matt,

    Would you be interested in being the North Carolina Science blogger for Ignite! Learning? I've been reading your blogs and following you on Twitter and think you'd be perfect for the role. If you'd like to chat more about it, please feel free to email me at mwhalen@ignitelearning.com. If you are interested, I'd love to have you on board!

    take care,

    Michael Whalen
    Director of Instructional Design and Academic Standards
    Ignite! Learning
    2905 San Gabriel St., Suite 212
    Austin, TX 78705