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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

#sol16 Everybody wants me to do it their way

I'm not usually held to the tight confines of curriculum demands, such as writing a report with clearly designated sections.  My job is to meet students where they are and help them close the gaps in their learning.  Yet, teaching is never an "in the box" kind-of-job; thus, sometimes, my job more closely aligned with what might be referred to as a "resource teacher" and I find myself helping students compete challenging assignments.  

So it was the other day as I tried, without a lot of success, to "coerce"a student into to write about the education system in Mexico as part of her Grade Level Assured Writing Project.  "I just want to write about the animals," she said with tears bubbling in her eyes. "Really, I don't want to write about their education.  I don't have to do that.  My teacher didn't say so," she implored as the tears began to flow. "Everybody wants me to do it their way."

I sent her off to get a drink of water and tried to wrap my head around her strong response.  I pondered how I could rework this task so that it was "her way."  To be honest, I wasn't even sure what the problem was!

After a chance to "cool off" and a long, long drink of water she returned to the table and sighed deeply, in the way that makes teachers rethink assignments and reconsider what is important. "So what do YOU want to include in your Mexico report?" I asked as she settled sullenly into her seat.

"Clothing, of course," she said with a smile.  "I want to write about the dresses with flowers all over and the big hats to keep off the sun.  I want to write about the way kids wear uniforms to school.  I don't even know what EDUCATION is anyway!"

"Of course," I said as I smiled and "jumped on" her clear explanation of the problem. "Let's start with clothing because that is indeed your area of expertise!  But I think you might want to include the part about wearing uniforms to school in the Education section.  Education means schools and learning.  You are getting an education right now," I said with a smile.

"You should have told me that education meant school," she said with a laugh, "I can do that."

"Let's start with clothing," I responded.  "That is an area where you are an expert!"

"Everybody wants me to do it their way," she laughed as she wrote "Clothes" as the title of the page.
"In Mexico, people were big hats to keep out the sun.........but they do not wear shorts.  They are too modest!"

5 comments:

newtreemom said...

Love, love, love this! Thank you for helping this writer find a way to share what she knows!
She got right to the heart of an important cultural value...something many who read her writing probably do not know. Oh, if only they always felt safe enough to write what they know, to write from their hearts instead of crying over trying to do it everybody else's way.

b said...

How many times do we pull up next to a student who thinks writing is out of reach? I loved how you coached her into starting with strength. Our greatest gift could be growing confident writers who think and do.
b

Liz McKenna said...

What a great teaching moment! It's so rewarding when we can bring writing to students and show them just how capable we KNOW they are! Wonderful slice!

Tara Smith said...

You did something so important - you honored this young writer's choice.

Dana Murphy said...

This is eye-opening. Everybody wants me to do it their way. I think this is a prevailing problem in US schools actually. I'm glad you were able to meet this student right where she was and support her.