Wrapping Things Up, II

Monday was a chilly, windy, cloudy day in my face-to-face teaching world – but much better for us than for those (to our north, east, west) truly affected by Hurricane Sandy.  For many of my students, it was a peaceful, pleasant day.  They finished the Collaborative Response I mentioned yesterday, prepared for their Individual Response, had time to relax, to catch their breath, at the half-way point.

“Do you mean,” asked W, “that we’re half-way through the first semester?”  W and her friend B are sweet, hard-working girls who don’t always notice things right away.  “How did that happen?” they wondered.

“I’m really concerned,” said L, “about my Individual Response.  Is the story really, really hard?”  No, I reassured her, you’ll do just fine.  And she did, just as she seems to do with everything.

“Can I go ahead and do my individual response?” asked K.  And, as always, she did a beautiful job too.

“Can I go ahead and do mine?” asked M.  She, too, was nervous – and she, too, exceeded her expectations.

L is the archetypal “good student” – the “good, hard-working, smart” kind that Ms. X and Mr. Y say they want in their classes.  She already had a growth mindset.  K and M have been developing growth mindsets.  And W and B?  They know effort brings success, know how much effort they’re willing to apply … are satisfied with the results of their efforts.  Different as they are, they’ve all embraced the  joyful learning community.  Watching them, helping them, responding to them brings joy and learning to my day, too.

But of course there are others.  Just a few – but watching them brings sadness and frustration.  B (different B) and J.  C and D.  E and U.  F and the other C.  “What’s my grade in here?” they ask helplessly, occasionally.  “Why am I doing bad?”  We talk about  being involved in the process – they nod sweetly, then promptly tune out again.  “Did my grade go up?” they ask sometime later,  “Or am I still doing bad?”

Do they enjoy being Helpless … and hopeless?  Or do they know no other way?

The fixed mindset of failure is strong in some.  “I’m just not good at school,” they say.  The fixed mindset of “I’m smart, so I do well automatically” rules others: “I should get an A or B!  I always get A’s and B’s!”

How might Ms. X and Mr. Y label them?  “Bad and lazy” for one group?  “Spoiled, lazy, horrible” for the other? Ms. X and Mr. Y would bring out pain-punishment tools, too.

But what if the labels are the problem?  What if pain-punishment makes the problem worse?

My helpless and hopeless students learned their mindsets – learned them well – from the hidden curriculum of factory-model schooling.  They learned – from Ms. X, Mr. Y, the system – that they’ll always “do bad” or “do OK.”  They’ll get the same label no matter what.  So why even try to change it?  Why even strive to improve?

Slowly, ever so slowly, they’re starting to trust our joyful community.  But it’s hard to overcome those labels.

“I think we can.. I think we can.. .I think we can…,” Debbie commented on Google+ Monday morning.

We can change, we can overcome, hear us roar!!
Our society as a whole has been taught (well) to be sheep, following along in the “same old way”. We are chipping away at this, taking back our individual power and asking the question “why” more frequently….

Does it makes sense to have the “factory school” environment? If you see it as providing the most and the best in the most cost efficient manner, then yes. If you look at is as an opportunity to encourage children/youth to learn from each other, to work with each other, to support each other, and so on, while they are being guided by Wise mentors, then yes, the group environment is the way to educate.

How can I help my labeled, voiceless learners re-find their voices, learn together?  How can we overcome the fear – the nameless terror – of leaving old, familiar patterns?  It’s not just Ms. X and Mr. Y who are afraid!

“That fear,” added Brendan,

serves as a limiting factor to those who are naturally averse to change.  Just recognizing and accepting that factor in some people might lead to some creative approaches to mitigating the fear of punishment, and finding additional incentives, that could help more status quo oriented people to try thinking of things through different lenses.

How can I help supply those lenses?  Build a safe place to try again for B, C, C, D, E, F, and U?  It’s hard, because they’ll still come from classrooms built around fixed-mindset labeling … and after 95 minutes in our growth-oriented community, a bell will ring, sending them back to fixed-mindset labeling.

Can you build a learning community in the midst of a knowledge factory?  Can the community replace the factory?  Or is it better, quicker, more effective to build the community somewhere else?

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Published in: on October 30, 2012 at 9:52 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] I said in the middle of yesterday’s post, “brings success.”  And it generally does … but not in a simple, linear way. And […]


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