I have long believed that we teach kids, not content. In fact, though I never do it, I have always wanted to reply when asked what I teach with, “I teach kids.” But I never do. I always say that I teach high school English. In part I worry that people won’t get it, but I also wonder if they would find it flip, find it sarcastic, but nothing could be further from the truth. No flippancy in that remark. I teach kids. English just happens to be the subject matter that occupies much of the space in our work. I teach kids. Yes, I help them grow in the arena of reading, writing, speaking, and thinking, but I also help them find themselves and their places in their world. And it’s reciprocal, for they, too, help me along my own path as I continue to discover again and again myself and my place.
Yesterday, in an effort to teach my little wonders, I tried to put a notion in their heads. I tried to get them to think differently about asking for help. Sadly, in school, needing help is often perceived as a weakness, as a sign of “dumbness.” This seems especially true for honors kids, for they often have a strongly-fixed mindset in this, and help becomes taboo,–something to be avoided, not embraced. I aim to correct this misguided thinking, especially as we continue to learn about and develop our growth mindsets.
As such, in 211, we have come to put a lot of stock in the idea of “yet,” and the power it brings to progress, the bridge from “I can’t” to “I can.” What I want my kiddos to understand is that “yet” by design necessitates help. Yes, dogged determination and persistent practice are essential elements, but they alone are not always enough to move us beyond our struggles towards “can.” We need help. There is no shame in that. There is wisdom in that. I want my kids to discover that wisdom. Here is a snippet of a conversation from yesterday.
Me: Does learning require questions?
Them: Yes. Of course.
Me: Are you learners?
Me: Then you should have questions, right? Should teachers have answers?
Them: Yes and Yes.
Me: Learning something new or working on something that is difficult requires help, yes?
Me: Good. Today’s learning is generally new and certainly difficult, so do what you are supposed to do, ask for help, and I will do what I am supposed to do, give help.
Proud of my attempts to inspire their neediness, I turned them loose on their task, and they…wait for it…didn’t ask for help. Fail. But not really. I know from past experiences that the “no-help” trend is tough to buck, so I will be patient and remain diligent in my deeds to change what’s sadly become standard in too many classrooms: the horror of help. Maybe if I let them know that the number one way to make my day is to ask me for help, they’d ask. Nothing pleases or energizes me more. Maybe if I let them know. Maybe they would do that for me. Maybe.
So on a silly whim yesterday, I got a notion in my head to add some novelty to our work. It requires having seen the movie The Princess Bride to appreciate it perhaps. And, fortunately, most of the kids had, so I believe it worked for them. Anyway, I provided kids with the name tags below to wear as they worked on hooks.
Again, it will likely be lost on those who have not seen the movie. Either way, I was happy that the kids found some fun it. Two of my more theatrical boys even helped me create two video clips of their reciting the lines on their name tags–in perfect character, but unfortunately, the videos wouldn’t load this morning. Sorry Ralphe and Mekhai.
Happy Wednesday, all. And, as ever, thanks for tuning in. It, too, makes my day.