Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Lessons Learned from a 7th Grader


      My grumpy me got schooled by a seventh grader recently. For me, it's been a long summer. It wasn't the "vacation" I had envisioned and the lack of action had me feeling pretty ornery. To accomplish something around my house, I hired a seventh grade girl, I'll call her April. So April arrived, Grumpy Me was alive and well, and I told her what needed to be done. I almost used the word "instructed" just now--I "instructed" April what to do. But I didn't, instruct her I mean.And here is where she schooled me.
     April probably thought I was the worst person around. And she would've been right. I realized as she toiled away that she was doing what she thought I wanted her to do. I assumed she knew what she was doing even though I had never told her anything, really. It reminded me of the classroom. How many times do we fail to give explicit instructions, or actually teach the kids anything, and then expect them to know what we want them to do? They'll be like April, tentatively approaching the work without any real direction trying to bring a sense of order to the task at hand.
       The question is do we just assign tasks or do we actually teach what we want our students to do? Do we hand them a work sheet and tell them to do it, or do we engage them in the lesson and make it meaningful for them?
      I hired April again a few days later to help in my classroom. I made sure Grumpy Me was locked up tight. Not only did the day go better for me, but I know it went better for April. I treated her the way I would want to be treated had I been her. We talked and laughed and had a good time. We got the project done in my room because I did a bit of instructing first to lay out the plan. And things went smoothly.
      So what were the lessons learned?
  1. Remember to always instruct, even when things seem obvious. Never assume kids can read our minds.
  2. Grumpy Me needs to be locked away...for good.
  3. Students want to do what you want or how you want things done.
  4. Don't assume. Just teach. 
  5. Relationships matter. When I spent time talking to April and showed a genuine interest in her, she responded accordingly. Invest some time in finding out who students are...it is a game-changer.
     April worked hard and did a terrific job. Me, however? Yeah, I'm still a work in progress, but I'm glad I'm learning new lessons. That can make all the difference.


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