Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kids are weird

In his book We Are All Weird, Seth Godin writes:
When we see a jogger off in the distance, our brain fills in the gaps. We don't imagine a red-haired giant, wearing a chartreuse jumpsuit and a Cameron Diaz smile. No, at this distance, we fill in the gaps with our prototype runner, a standard runner, the runner we always use when we imagine a runner. To do anything else seems a waste of time and effort. 
As we get closer, reality intrudes. This isn't an archetype, it's an actual person. Short, perhaps, or with just one leg, or limping or wearing street clothes. On close inspection, just about everybody is weird.
When we plan curriculum for students (read: doing curriculum to kids), we see them off in the distance, allowing our brains to fill in the gaps. We don't imagine the dyslexic kid who needs to be the primary caregiver for his siblings while his single mom works the night shift, the adolescent who spent the weekend in crisis stabilization in a psychiatric assessment unit at the local hospital or the teenager who can't sit in a desk for 10 minutes but spends hours in the backyard meticulously mastering their snapshot.

As we get closer to our kids, it becomes disturbingly clear that normal is a myth.

There is no cookie-cutter kid. No archetype student. All kids are human which makes them inherently weird -- and good thing too because diversity is what get's us through the day.

The best educators get what it means to say that every teacher is inexperienced with each new group of students. They get that prefabricated, content-bloated curriculums, pacing guides and laminated lesson plans are the definitive way to pretend to teach.

Upon closer inspection, almost every learner is weird and it's time school took the time to address their weird needs.

5 comments:

  1. Well said, Joe. Important to remember the individual needs of our learners. More and more, technology may be a way to access that idea in practical ways.

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  2. That is wonderfully put and heartfelt. Even though I reached this understanding years ago when I encountered my students outside in the world of work, I continue to struggle with my tendency to treat them as a group. Despite my efforts, curriculum, assessment demands, and the environment of schools can overwhelm me.

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  3. I agree here. I was one of those "weird" students who couldn't manage to go with the flow of school, and ended up getting left behind a lot of the time. As a future teacher myself, I hope I can create a classroom environment that keeps everyone included!

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  4. "The best educators get what it means to say that every teacher is inexperienced with each new group of students. "

    Though I have heard this stated before, it is a good reminder to keep our focus not simply on students, but on the individual students--each with his or her own backstory.

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  5. As we get further and further into the school year, I feel like I can start to breathe more easily. The first few weeks, is almost like teaching blindfolded. I would say I expend about 80% of my energy getting to know the kids. As of week 4, I'd say that the classes that are going the best are the ones where I know the kids and their "weirdness"
    Thanks for the post!

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