My Win that Makes Me Sad


Little things are big wins for me.   A student from a semester class in the fall stops by to say hello often.  The other day A asks if I have any math problems they could work on during their new semester class… 1) they miss doing math everyday 2) they are bored.  I pull out a copy of MT Calendar Problems from last year with the the key and hand to A.

I know A is working on them because A returns to my classroom with a questions because they were having trouble making sense of particular problems…math they haven’t learned yet.  A couple of questions on my part (because I’m the one who answers questions with questions) and A was moving forward again.

When a student responds to “Did you enjoy your break?” with, “Not really.  School is boring, but less boring than home.”  Are we giving them a reason to be here? 

Don’t take this the wrong way…we have many wonderful teachers, most work very, very hard.  But, it makes me sad that I sometimes see how boring I am on my students’ faces.  I walk down the hall peering through doors and seeing students unengaged.  Highly intellectual beings that are not thinking because we are not letting them think.  We are boring them. No, its not like this all day, everyday.  But any moment , in my opinion, they are not engaged is wasted time, a missed opportunity.  We may be working hard, but rather than asking them to think, are we telling them here is what you need (I want you) to know, don’t think about it, just know it (aka memorize for the test and then forget it)?

And they do, some of them anyway.

I don’t have the research but my guess is 30% get the game of school. They can do what is asked with little to no effort. Yes they are “successful” in their academics, complete all of the assignments, get all the right grades, but have we really asked them /given them opportunities to think deeply?

Another 30% want to play the game of school, are very intellectual but their processing is way different than ours.  They try, they want to please us and their parents by hard work but they don’t get it enough to actually retain it beyond the test.  With some adjustments in our approach, we could really move these students forward.

Of the remaining 30%, this is the group we could have the biggest impact with but stepping a little further outside our comfort zone.  Actually, for some, I guess it would be way out of their comfort zone to connect-really connect with these students.

My guess is several are distracted by outside factors beyond our reach.  They lost what small connections they had with educators long ago.  At some point they began to feel disconnected and realized they were being pushed along.  It could have been an undetected learning disability.  Maybe they didn’t want anyone to know they didn’t “get it” so they just stopped trying, and we labeled them lazy.  Yep, there was that one teacher who made some long strides, but the folllowing year, noone kept that same level of interest, so they slid back into their isolation. Once, a student wrote on an evaluation “I appreciate what you’re doing, but what’s the use, if it will go right back the old way when I’m no longer in your class.”

I whole heartedly believe some of our most intellectual students fall into this group.  They don’t buy in to our definition of education (eocs, standardized testing).  Look at what they’re reading… I mean seriously, if a student is not capable or lazy, would they be reading novel after novel, especially things I find over my head? Or books about the most influential physicists of the century?  Have we actually taken the time to appreciate the beauty and details in their notebook of doodles? 

Take a moment to have a real conversation with them.
See beyond what you want them to do… 
They’re a person. 
Somebody’s child, grandchild, niece or nephew, friend. 
Wanting to learn. 

Let them know you see them. 
Let them know you miss them when they’re not in your classroom. 
Let them know they matter.



Let them know you believe in them.
And don’t be fake.
They know fake.

5 responses »

  1. We are not the only ones who see. I have a young man who has almost slipped away- he is choosing to disengage, but the flashes I see when he forgets that he is supposed to not care tells me that he is a highly intelligent person. I asked him to show me what he knows (on the test that he was deliberately not doing. I told him that I believed he was able to show me that. I left him alone. I looked over and noticed he was working. As soon as he caught my look, he looked surprised, put his pencil down and turned away. But as he left the room later, he said”don’t believe in me.” I told him I could never stop believing in him. He was smiling and ignoring me (on purpose) as he went out the door.
    I think about all the kids I would like to be there for next year and the year after that/ I’d follow them thru college to let them know I will always believe in them. Thanks for confirming I am not alone!

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