I’m a bit new to the idea of blogging. I say that, but even as I say it, I realize that much of what I’ve posted on Facebook in the form of Notes is blogging. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to hear what I have to say, but I find a lot of clarification in writing, so I’ll be happy to share my words with whomever would like to read them. I learn about myself, situations, and people by writing; so, this blog is really for me. If you’re reading it, enjoy, and know I’m humbled that you would spend your time looking at what I’ve said. Most of my thoughts revolved around: my children, my husband, must students, education in general, and my horses.
Like today, for example. I realized that there are few things I’ve learned about students that I haven’t first learned with my beloved horse, Dixie. Even today when I thought I couldn’t find a lesson, one was there; waiting for me like my morning cup of coffee. All I had to do was let the idea percolate a bit.
I’m distributing grade reports to my students today. Several are failing and there is absolutely no reason for this. The kids just don’t care to read and therefore can’t do their classwork or their homework. Failure is not an option though…well, at least at this point…so what to do?
I looked to my trusty steed for inspiration. She is blind in one eye and riding her has taught me a lot about trust and accommodations. She has her own Individual Education Plan, (IEP,) if you will. Now that she trusts me we are both much safer and enjoy the ride much more. By this point in the semester, one would think my students trusted me too, but if they did, they wouldn’t be failing. So I continue to ponder…
A few months ago I decided that I’d try to teach Dixie to drive a cart. I wanted to see if she’d trust me enough to allow me to teach her something new. I was overjoyed when she let me put the strange bridle, collar, harness, etc., on her. She never flinched, trusting that I knew what I was doing. Oh, how proud I was. Too proud, actually. Instead of allowing Dixie to grow accustomed to this new apparatus slowly as I knew I should by perhaps walking behind her with the reins or even attaching a heavy object to her, I decided it was ok to attach the rolling cart behind her. MAJOR ERROR. She didn’t know what had just started chasing her, but she decided it couldn’t be good and she didn’t trust that I could stop it. The wheels rolled as fast as she could move and we nearly had quite the rodeo. Now, she did trust me enough to stop when I stood in front of her with my hands up calming saying “Whoa.” She didn’t like stopping, but what she was doing wasn’t working, so though true fear was showing in her eyes, she let me unhook the apparatus. In doing so, I realized I had pushed way too hard and much too fast.
This scenario, however, is not the same as with my students. We’re reading To Kill a Mockingbird and they simply had reading guides for homework to make sure they were reading and Twitter summaries in class to help them summarize their thoughts. Fourteen out of 25 have zeroes on nearly every assignment. It’s not that they can’t. We read a lot of the chapters in class. It’s simply that they won’t.
As I sit here today wondering what to do I struggle between allowing them a chance to redo the missed work or to simply take zeroes and be done with it. Either way, I wonder what they’ll learn. Then I realized that learning to take responsibility for their choices doesn’t mean learning to fail. It doesn’t mean they can balk or run and get to quit. So, just like I’ll do with Dixie in the coming weeks, these kids will be re-trained, so to speak, to work for and earn the grades they deserve. They won’t be “allowed” to re-do the work, they’ll be required to do it – just like Dixie will be required to learn to pull the cart – and they’ll be better for the experience.
Horses that are blind in one eye are not so different from students.