Saturday, February 15, 2014

The three kids I teach

I started a blog yesterday talking about helping students learn how to learn. While I was writing it I had a really interesting conversation with @mrsterp about the different parts of the kids we teach. She likened it to an iceberg. There is the kid that we see and then there is a whole mess of stuff below the surface we never get to see, and can only guess at.

After that conversation I realized that there are really three different kids we teach:
  • There is the kid that learns the content.
  • There is the kid that learns to learn.
  • And there is that kid that learns to manage their experiences.
What I came to find out is that each kid is made up of these three kids.

The kid that learns the content is pretty easy to manage. They have a certain propensity to learn. Some like what I have to teach and some don't. Some are motivated; some aren't. This kid is the one you can see in the classroom. They are either busy at work or looking out the window. They are the one that turns their work in on time or has to be reminded 47 times to get it done. I know how to teach this kid.

Then there is the kid that has to learn how to learn. I know this might be a shocker, but every kid learns differently and the way they learn may not be the way you teach. The outcomes you expect may not come first nature to the kid. There are times when we must step away from the content and focus on the task of learning. This point is exacerbated with the integration of technology. Not only do you have to learn differently, but you are forced into a device that may or may not be familiar or conducive to your learning style. This kid is teachable, but you must understand the process of learning apart from the content.

And, finally, there is the kid that has to learn to manage their experiences. This is the hardest kid to teach. Experiences, obviously stated, are individualized to each student. You have a student whose parents are middle class with two incomes. This kid plays little league, hangs out with his friends on the weekend and has been told they are pretty smart. Then you have the kid whose parents just divorced. This kid is going back and forth between household. Education is not the most pressing issue this kid has. Lastly, there is the kid whose home life is really a wreck. Home is not the place they want to be most. There my not be much supervision. Consistency is not common place. For this kid school my be the safest place they know. They may act out at school, but it's not for the reason you think.

All of these kids, and every variation, need our best teaching, our most enduring patience and our individualized, personal care when they are at school. This is terribly hard, but when a kid is not performing as they should, albeit educationally, community-ly or behavorally, do not be frustrated. Think about which kid that lives inside each student you are not reaching.

Your students will notice, and you will notice a change in your students.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged,

Dane Barner

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