Sunday, November 10, 2013

I listen to a lot of audiobooks due to my 30min (or more) ride into campus, and then back again to get home. Today, while doing the regular routine of cleaning house, I began a new book. So far, the book is interesting. It’s focussed on what we envision as ‘extraordinary’ and ‘special’ traits that leads to success in ones field may sometimes be the affect of some other, seemingly unrelated parameters. Of course, the chapter that I am in is discussing academic success, so I am riveted and may not be able to do more than this post until the chapter is completed. However, none of the above is what I am writing this post about.

Instead, here’s a quote from the book that I feel is so appropriate in todays education and employment hierarchy, “We make rules that frustrate achievement.” I cannot tell you how to the point that statement is, from where I stand. Not from the book, but from my own mind comes the additional thought that, what’s makes matters worse, is that the rules often change midstream and some people succeed by breaking the rules. As future or present teachers, you will sadly have no power to change these rules as a whole. It’s unfortunate to tell you, but the parents and government officials out there do not consider you skilled or successful…you are only necessary. Little do they know how much more a teacher is, especially early on in a child’s life.

That said, I urge you to design your classes that foster achievement and the desire to achieve by lessening those ‘rules’ that otherwise might be in the way of that child. Be aware of where your students come from, where they want to go, and try to smooth out the wrinkled path that is immediately in front of them…all of them…whether they look like a success today or not. No one will thank you for this effort, most likely. Some may scoff at you. But one student, who otherwise would have done nothing in their life, will succeed and will come to you and tell you how important you were to that success. It will be worth the 10, 15, 20 year wait to hear it.

To me, I don't urge lowering of standards or having a variety of standards.  Instead, I urge not making the traditional standards be the goal...grades, test scores, etc are necessary but not the best judge of what a person can do or what they will be, especially if they are young.  Inspire learning and understanding and respect for those attributes, and the students you produce will be a wonder, will have many a door open to them that might otherwise be shut.

PS…the book is called “Outliers”.

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