In my last post, Re-engaging with a Growth Mindset, I mentioned that I was going to be talking to students in several of our seventh grade math classes — giving a pep talk, of sorts. We are a relatively “high poverty” school, and many of our students struggle with connection, and motivation at school. I was asked by a few of our math teachers to talk with students about credits, and what it takes to get to the eighth grade.
Honestly, I was skeptical that a discussion about credits would have an impact, but I enjoy being in the classroom, so I agreed to do presentations last Wednesday. I chose to focus a majority of my time on the notion that we all have choices we can make, and we can all get better at things — with practice and determination (a growth mindset). I even spent a little time talking about how I recently learned to tie a bow tie, a challenge that was a bit frustrating for me (most students had noticed that I had been wearing bow ties lately).
As I talked to students throughout the day on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but think of a quote by Richard Elmore, “Teaching isn’t rocket science. It is, in fact, far more complex and demanding work than rocket science.” I don’t think I need to tell this audience that teaching is tough. The diversity (academic, cultural, motivational, socio-economic, etc.) in each classroom where I spoke to was staggering. Accommodating for the needs of these students is an incredible challenge.
I am a firm believer in blogging as a form of reflective practice, and I truly appreciate the opportunity to interact with peers through social media such as Twitter. However, I think it is critical that we share our struggles, as well as our successes — lest we gloss over the challenges encountered in the practice of teaching. Sometimes, I think we make things sound too easy, or we offer “simple” solutions to complex problems. Responses that might be discouraging to those who find themselves neck-deep in the trenches of a difficult classroom, or school setting. Sometimes it is encouraging just to know that there are others who have the same concerns, and face the same challenges.
I also think it is important to remember that we teach for today, but also for tomorrow, and for the future. The culture of standardized testing, and accountability, demands a quick turnaround on results, but for some kids, the value of our teaching, connections, and relationships may not be evident for years to come. Remember that when you encounter challenging students, kids who push your buttons, kids who have lost hope, or those who seem unmotivated. Don’t give up — teach for the future.
Here is the Prezi I used as a guide for my discussion. It lacks some of my comments, and anecdotes, but I think you’ll get the picture. Let me know what you think.