Posts Tagged high school

In Their Words Video

I created this video from over 2 hours of student interviews and dozens of still images.

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Treating Students “Fairly” is UnFair

Student:  I have a B in your class, I just need a little more time to get it up to an A
Teacher:  If I gave you more time it wouldn’t be fair to the other students in the class.  Rules are rules and I can’t change the due date for you because its not fair to everyone else.

I have been wrestling, rustling, brewing, and stewing over this conversation since yesterday morning.  We hear things like this a lot at our online high school and it’s time for that to change.  Students shouldn’t be treated “fairly” because that is inherently unfair.  They are not all the same.  We need to replace the mindset of ‘fairly’ with the mindset of ‘individually’.  

Every student comes to us with different background experiences, a different skill set, different goals for the course, different life circumstances that are dictating their actions at this moment, different futures, and different needs.  To bunch them all together under one realm is unfair. To say “rules” apply equally even though you are different is unfair.  Students need to be dealt with on an individualized basis, this goes for instruction, assessment, and course platitudes.

Schools are no longer about creating workers to run our industries.  They are about creating learners and thinkers.  They are about relevance, and what is relevant to one student is not relevant to all students. They should be exploiting creativity, not demanding cookie-cutter-one-size-fits-all products. 

Every road block we put in their way limits this ability.  Everytime we fail to look at the student as a whole, complex being, rather than as another name on the roll count is a disservice to education and humanity. 


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Breaking Down Personal Barriers

Forbidding Wall

When I was in High School I was petrified of public speaking. It got even worse when I went to college and didn’t know anyone in the room. In fact, early on in my college career I would drop courses if I found out there was a speech involved. I hated that about myself, but hated the idea of speaking even more. Then I became a teacher.

Knocking Down that First Big Wall:
When I began college at 21, after 3 years of floating around through life, I knew I wanted to work with kids. I wasn’t interested in teaching at that point because I didn’t think there was anyway I could get up in front of a class everyday and just….talk. But after a few years of college, something changed. I had to take a speech class to move to a 4 year school, there was no way to avoid it anymore. Even though I dreaded every one of those 3-5 minute monologues ( I would shake, my stomach would get upset, and I felt flushed with heat), I started getting a little confidence in myself. The final assessment of the semester was presenting a Persuasive Speech I wrote about working with kids in the community (I still didn’t think I could teach at this point). My speech got nominated by our class and I ended up in a school-wide competition. I didn’t win but made it to the finals and the observers were about 50 students, a dean from Stanford, one from Cal Poly, and the head of my school. In about 6 months I had gone from being deliriously nervous just to talk in front of 30 kids in a community college classroom, to the finals of a speech competition in front of some very intimidating people.

Going for It:
Once I got through that course, I knew I could become a teacher. But the fears didn’t stop once I did. I still get nervous in front of my peers and large groups and there are still personal barriers that I keep trying to knock down. The main difference now is that I set goals to break down those walls. I push myself to handle uncomfortable situations. Just last week I presented at my first NACOL Webinar, which was really strange and awkward. I wasn’t happy with how I presented my ideas in that hour, but I know that next time will be better because I got through it.

How This Applies to my Kids:
I want to push my kids to do things that unnerve them. I want to teach students to play outside of their safe zones. I want to help them get through their fears at a much younger age than I did. I talk to kids about this in very limited situations right now, but as I’m growing as a teacher I’m learning that this plays more and more of a role in students lack of success. I think I’m finally beginning to understand the role of fear in a teenagers mind, and hopefully I can help them break down some of the barriers that fear creates.

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