Recently I’ve been reading A Beautiful Constraint, by Morgan & Barden, and have found myself reflecting on things I have perceived as barriers to truly reaching each and every child that I taught. Now that I am a principal, my current situation sees me out of the role as classroom teacher. I am hopeful that in the future I will be able to timetable myself back into the classroom for some teaching time, but as of right now, that’s not the case. When I think about my time in the classroom, however, I can honestly point to moments when I used constraints as an excuse, as a crutch. I think about some students who I just could not reach, and realize at some point, I stopped trying. That’s not easy to admit, because it’s something we are never supposed to do, but I did. I still delivered the curriculum, I still treated those students with the same love and respect I showed the others, however I did not go that extra mile that I needed to make sure that 100% of my students were engaged in meaningful, rigorous work on a daily basis.
I’d invite you to think about all of those students you will be working with next week (or next year if you stumble across this in July or August), and think about their engagement level. Do you know that 100% of your students are engaged? If so, how? If not, how can you find out? When you think about your classes, think about the feeling you get when everyone is “on”, when everyone is turned on to learning. Does it feel like that every day? Shouldn’t it? If you can think of a student, or a group of students who you are not reaching, and they are beginning to fall through the cracks, imagine the following scenario.
You have a student in your class who is not buying into what it is you are doing in class, they just are not engaged, and their marks are reflecting this. To your surprise, you have been invited to this student’s house for dinner, and when you show up their entire family is there, even many from the extended family. Small talk turns to school talk, and you are asked how the student is doing in class. After explaining that the student is struggling, you are asked, “what are you doing to get them excited about learning?”
As you sit with this students’ family, what will you say? Many of you reading this will have answers, because many of you do go above and beyond for all of your students. Some of you may struggle with that scenario, and may feel like saying, “well, what about the kid? What are they bringing to the table?” This is one of the greatest constraints I feel we face in education, our own belief that kids these days just don’t want to learn. I don’t believe that, and it makes me think of two great quotes I have heard from two different colleagues:
If they could, they would.
If students can’t learn they way I teach, I need to change how I teach.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you are reaching 100% of your kids on a daily basis.
Thanks for reading.