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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hard day's night...

"Your willingness to look at your darkness is what empowers you to change." 
~ Iyanla Vanzant

“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”
 Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yesterday afternoon was a hard one. I went home sad from work. I found out that an extremely shy and insecure student has been very unhappy in my math class. I listened (from my administrator via the parents) to the long list of complaints that came to me somewhat incredulous, but for the most part, understanding how this young person could have misinterpreted situations. This student has been the type to ask me whether to write their name on the left or right corner of a paper, whether to use blue or red marker, whether to hand in homework in the bin after everyone else has. In other words, this student has been so paralyzed by insecurity as to question every single minutia.

I thought this student was joking at times. This student's work has been superb and I have never had any indication that there was serious misunderstanding.

In fact, the grave misunderstanding is that this student has interpreted me as creating chaos. This student wants everything clear cut and competitive, while I want a little fuzziness around the edges in order to elicit a higher order of thinking and working. This student wants me to give the rule and demand practice of the class: I want the students to muddle around a little, work out the details and ask me for clarification only as last resource. We apparently have a mismatch of educational goals and while I have been counseled by many knowledgeable people to not "take this on" (aside from my administrator, who errs towards the student), it saddens me to think that I have failed to reach this student at least half way.

I do not believe in "my way or the highway" in most instances, although I do recognize that there are certain, constructivist principles on which I rarely budge. This classroom environment has not brought out the best feelings in this students, although their work is impeccable (implying educational success to a large degree, no?). Nevertheless, I am saddened to think that a student is so emotionally flummoxed so as to feel inept and off balance.

So I went home sad. Then I received some interesting messages from my PLN about how to interpret this student, the admin, the family and the situation as a whole. In the end, a message came my way that sadness is part of a reflective teacher's life.

I'll take that one and think about it for a while.


1 comment:

Katharine Beals said...

I appreciate your thoughtful reflections on this student and the challenges she poses. She sounds very similar to some of the children I interviewed for my new book, "Raising a Left-Brain Child in a Right-Brain World." I call these children, typically very analytical and unsocial, "left-brainers," and have found that many of them flounder in constructivist classrooms.

Incidentally, I stumbled upon your blog today while looking up references to Singapore Math. What do you think of this curriculum? I've found it ingenious and wonderful, especially for left-brainers!

Katharine Beals