The groan could have been heard for miles it seemed. The 7th grader in front of me looked at me with that look only kids can give you when you have said something that they hate.
“Post-its? I hate post-its, why do we have to use post-its?”
I bent down and said “Why?” took the few minutes to discuss and then knew I had to change what I was about to teach.
It was my first day of readers workshop with the students and I was pumped, I couldn’t wait to get them started on their journey to think deeper about their books, have better conversations, and boost their writing. And yet, already by the first hour, I had run into a boulder of disapproval.
In the past, I would have had a conversation with the student as well, but it would have centered on explaining why this was good for them, why they had to do it, and how they just had to trust me. This time though, I knew it wouldn’t be enough, that my role right now is not to force habits because I said so but rather create discussion and find habits that work for us. So I listened and we discussed and I realized that the student brought up points that I think of myself as I read through some of my lessons and it was time for me to admit it.
Being a teacher is sometimes like being an enforcer. We tell children what to do because we know best, we know the end point, and so we know the building blocks that they need to get there. We have discussions, we offer choice, but how often do we listen to what the students are telling us and admitting our own doubts or thoughts? How often do we admit our own adult habits and how they fly in the face of what we are teaching and then create a new path forward because we know the students might be right? How often do we listen when students tell us how they feel and then actually act upon it even if it means changing the way we teach?
We have to have honest conversations with our students. We have to be able to admit that sometimes the ideas we first had are not the ideas that are best suited for the children in front of us. That we as adults have developed habits that fly in the face of what we are teaching and yet we still manage to be deep thinkers. We have to admit that sometimes our lessons are not “real life” or even do-able for all of us. We have to admit that not everyone has the same path forward to whatever goal we may have set.
I speak to my students about developing as independent thinkers, yet I expect them to conform to all of the same rules in our classroom. I am not sure how to go forward, but I know something has to give. We may know what is best for most, but I need to know what is best for each. And that will take a lot of honest conversations.
I am a passionate teacher in Wisconsin, USA, who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.