Sunday, June 24, 2007

So what do you do with it?

I had an interesting conversation with another teacher during the graduation processional. We saw Mike, a kid who managed to turn himself around during senior year and graduate on time. Before this year he had a GPA of something like 1.5, but this year he turned it around and earned a 3.7. That's one hell of a change, and I'm proud of him for it.

This teacher and I talked about what changed in him, and I told her that his counselor told me I had a big part in it. At the time it surprised the hell out me because Mike is a really quiet kid and I had no idea I was so motivating to him.

It started with two things: a positive attitude in the beginning of the year, and a Jimi Hendrix poster. The kid loves classic rock and is learning to play guitar, so Jimi was enough to get him to want to talk to me.

The other teacher asked "What do you do with the posters?" I asked what she meant and she said again "As far as curriculum goes. So what do you do with it?"


This caused her to give me an intensely quizzical look. There are legions of educators who believe that every nuance of every classroom experience needs a direct tie into the curriculum, and she's one of them. I don't believe that's the case.

It's about creating connections. Personal connections. The kids have had their fill of curricular connections, and sometimes you have to let academic concerns go for a bit and make them believe that your classroom is a cool place to be. If you can do that, you can open doors for the kids who struggle most with a traditional curriculum.

I'll never see Mike or any of the other handful of seniors in my 11th grade classes this year again, but I'm proud of every one of them, and it feels good to know that I helped get them ready for the rest of the world.

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