The Parallel Tale of a Student and Teacher

This One Student

I have this one boy in my 7th grade math class just like that one you have in your class. He’s a ringleader. He’s an instigator. He always wants the spotlight. Bottom line: he’s just difficult.

Altogether, he is pretty bright in math.  Intellectually, this young man is head and shoulders above many of his classmates. Academically, he is a successful student. Emotionally, he is quite immature. [Par for the course as far as adolescent boys go.] We can easily go the distance on this one and surmise that he is bored in my class, so his behavior is too often less than stellar.

The two sides of him just cannot connect and so he is constantly talking and shouting out in class and disrupting things in general. It is requiring every ounce of patience I have to remind him to use self-control. [Again, par for the course as far as adolescent boys go.]

No doubt you have already guessed that he is constantly on my radar. In the long run, I think he’s going to make me a better teacher because he is challenging me to come up with different strategies for teaching math and handling students. In the long run, I will grow but for now, it’s really hard.

This One Teacher

There is also this one math teacher in my building like that one you have in yours. She is very focused on giving students the math skills they need rather than teaching the textbook. She works hard to create a learning environment without excuses so students will take personal responsibility. And oh, did I say? She knows her math. Yes, she does. Through and through.

This teacher is what I would call an inevitable disruptor. Why? Because she is constantly challenging the status quo at school. I feel for her because I think she’s playing on a team of one.

She is torn between trying the fill the gaps in the math skills of students way below grade level and teaching to standards and common core assessment. [ICYMI… math is the most cumulative core subject of all of them. If a student can’t do 4th grade math, it makes no sense to march through a 7th or 8th grade text.]

She is wholly focused on holding students accountable for their own learning. She asks them to show up to class on time… to be prepared by bringing all their materials… to focus and give effort during instruction… to turn in assignments… and to show respect in the classroom.

I don’t think these are unreasonable expectations for any teacher. But she doesn’t get any support to make these things stick for students. I know she’s feeling a lot of pressure from all sides, but honestly, she is in a pretty tough spot.

Parallel Tails

edOS 3 NewI have been watching this parallel tale develop between this student and teacher for a while. I keep asking the same question for each of them: What’s in it for them?

At some point, each is going to hit the wall and probably crash and burn. Fried and frustrated with a system that is too bogged down in should’s and should-not’s, it is possible they each might just bag it and walk away.

Christmas break is right around the corner. A long winter’s nap will be just what I need to renew and start a fresh semester with this young man. I hope the holiday muses are kind to the teacher as well.

But that question is like a splinter in my mind: What’s in it for them? What will it take to make school a place where each of them can succeed and succeed to the best of their abilities?

I am left with the classic educator’s question emerging from somewhere deep within:

HMW re-imagine and reinvent education? HMW #PivotTheModel?

Because we need to. Now. We cannot wait any longer. It is time to stop chasing our tails. Now.