Saturday, November 7, 2015

Ask A Deeper Question

Well another week has flown by and sitting last night with my 19 year old son (a freshman in college) I got my inspiration for this week’s post.  My son commutes to school this year and has been kind enough to volunteer in my classroom once in awhile.  That is where the inspiration happened.  I was sitting and talking with him about life, work, evaluations etc.  I looked at him and asked if he thought I was a good teacher.  He said, “yeah mom”.

Now, I took this with a grain of salt because he is my son and he knows where allowance comes from.  So I asked a deeper question.  “Why and how am I a good teacher?”  This is where he took a little bit longer to give me answer.   He said that sitting in my first grade classroom he had learned something he had never learned before.   I was kind of surprised and shocked to hear this still thinking he was being silly.  Yet I was intrigued.  I went on with the conversation wondering what he possibly could he have learned in the first grade classroom that he did not truly know?

He went on to tell me that the experiment I had performed in the classroom was so cool.  I remembered then that he had raised his hand along with the children while we voted on whether a pumpkin would float or not.   I remember him doing this and I thought at the time he was just playing along with the kids.   I know now that he truly was learning in the moment.

The question posed to the children was “will a pumpkin sink or float”.  We looked at heavy things then we looked at light things.  We looked at solid things and hollow things. With each part of the experiment we tried,  we thought out loud.  What did we think might happen with a pumpkin?   After we had dropped several things into a tub of water we were ready to do the pumpkin.  We did a thumbs up thumbs down. “Who thinks the pumpkin will float? Thumbs up. Who thinks it will sink?  Thumbs down.  As I gauge the room I noticed all of my children excited and ready to vote some thumbs were up, but many were down.  As we counted down I held pumpkin over the water, every face was anticipating what would come next.

The look of shock on all of their faces told me that they had just seen something that they had never imagined, including the 19 year old boy sitting in my classroom.

I asked him how could it possibly be in school no teacher had ever explained that a pumpkin with float.  He said he did not have me for a first grade teacher. I laughed.  Then he told me he now understood why an aircraft carrier can float as well.  This is something I had added into the end of my experiment explaining to my students as we looked at a picture of an aircraft carrier and talked about where the hollow parts of an aircraft carrier would be and where the air would be to keep it floating in the ocean.   Many of my students were excited to go home and drop other things in water to see what would float and what would sink.

Back to my living room and talking to my 19 year old son.  he told me it was cool how I talk to my students like they are people, not 6 year olds, not babies, but people.  He said I talk to them the same way I talk to him.  I asked what he meant.  His answer was a response to my initial question.  He said I don’t water down learning, I don’t give them little pieces, I show them then connect it to the real world.  He said it was cool and asked if he could come in an other free days to see what else he could learn in first grade.

I was so excited!  I have always believed children will rise to meet the expectation level you have for them. I do set the bar high, but hold a hand in the process if needed and allow the children who are already there to run with thoughts and ideas.  Differentiating doesn’t mean make it easy, it means meet them where there are and support the way.  

So the next time your child at home says “yeah mom”, ask a deeper question, you just might find out something you never knew.

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