Mitigating the pressures we put on students

Another Blogapalooz night. We get an hour to respond to this prompt: write about a time you told a lie.

I don’t know if this is technically a lie. I love telling stories. I also love breaking rules that don’t make any sense. I broke some rules in my role as a gifted resource teacher.

In my job as a gifted teacher, I guess I was an “implicit” liar at times. I lied about the time the students spent testing with me. We had specific procedures we had to follow to identify students as gifted. There were two phases to the screening. The first phase was more fun. Students were given an interest survey. Gifted students typically have a lot of interests so the student and I had provocative discussions. Next, they were asked to answer some informal assessments, “Problem Solving with Shapes,” and Rebus (similar to making a comic strip). They liked those assessments. I will never forget the day a twice-exceptional student (gifted and with a learning disability) created a guitar out of the shapes and used glue for the strings. Amazing. Making a story out of Rebus figures (simple characters in simple settings) was challenging, but most students thought it had an element of fun, too. Students were asked to respond to a challenging writing prompt. That activity was the only one students approached with mixed enthusiasm.

If the students’ work was found worthy, she advanced to the next phase. Now the next phase involved rigorous testing and that’s where the lies came in. I snuck the students going through the second phase of testing sodas from the teacher’s lounge. It relaxed them. And they needed to be relaxed because primary students frequently advanced to questions at the high school level and those questions, whether in math or language arts, were really tough.

I lied when teachers in the lounge asked me why I was buying six or seven Sprites or Cokes at a time. And I think I lied when I gave some of the students going through the tests an extra long break before I brought them back to their classrooms.

Of course, I got busted. The principal came down my hall and saw a handful of kids sipping Cokes while completing an assessment. To appease other teachers who thought that gifted kids were privileged (a topic for another day), she gave me a slap on the wrist. Maybe she carried the cans back to the teachers lounge as proof of the infraction.

I didn’t stop breaking the soda or “ban on extended break” rules. We put a lot of pressure on our students and expect them to be worker bees, without a perk or a break. Over the course of the two phases of testing, I probably spent 20 hours with each student. We got to know each other well. We built trust. We went on to do amazing things together.

And it all started with a lie about a can of soda.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIDEO

Leave a comment