Teaching Beyond Standards

In a matter of weeks, we’ll all be saying goodbye to bright smiling faces and yet another year of learning. In a year’s time, we planned activities, wiped tears, gave hugs, attended trainings and even implemented new technology. We made a point to address the needs of learning and purposefully made sure that students were reached beyond the limits or constraints of standards. Somehow in the middle of a field of projects, devices, crayons and posters…we’ve also managed to teach them life lessons that will serve to frame the people that they will become.

Learning That We All Have Value

I remember being in a training years ago and as we worked collaboratively to develop content. We were asked to consider that each person brings a level of expertise to a conversation. We had to set aside our differences to work together to reach a goal. It wasn’t easy but we learned so much about each other in doing that. It changed the way that I approached my own teaching. I started using phrases like “you all have expertise” when helping students to establish building collaborative relationships and my gosh, it was like seeing light bulbs glow at once! Collaboration isn’t an easy skill but it’s a necessary one and as difficult as it can be, it’s fulfilling to see kids own their journey and recognize, for themselves, the value that each brings to the table. This is such an important life lesson for all of us to learn regardless of age.

Power of Perseverance

One of my students, E, was told for years that he was incapable of being anything more than a thug on the streets. He was told this so much that he actually believed it. This one was one of my toughest walls to break. He needed someone to believe in him without question and I was happy to serve that role. It wasn’t easy but as long as he was willing to push through, I was going to push him. (I probably didn’t give him much choice in the matter) For three years, he came to school early and stayed late. We worked on every subject that he had beyond my class. His graduation was one of my most cherished moments as a teacher. He understood the power in pushing against naysayers and I grew as a witness to his journey. Thinking about it still gives me chills.

You Can Fall, But You Must Get Up!

Years ago, one of my students, who I will call B, did not pass her state exams to graduate. As someone who struggled in math her entire life, this was devastating. She had multiple opportunities still left to pass, but her confidence was gone and she didn’t want to try again. I went to her home and sat down with her and her mother. We talked about all that she had accomplished up to that point and that quitting was not an option. Over the next few months, we worked like crazy in small sessions so much that she could literally teach. Needless to say, she passed the test but the greatest lessons were those that happened along the way in getting there.

Many of you may be feeling beat down from the mandates and requirements throughout the year. Trust me. I know. For a moment, I don’t want you to think about test results and other data. Reflect on the journey and the moments that really mattered with your students.

These moments, beyond the standards, are what truly matter most.

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