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A Thought Experiment That Will Make You Thankful for Your Teachers

Posted by Scott Heydt on Thursday, November 27, 2014 Under: Recommended Reads

RefinED Friends,

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Inda Schaenen's book Speaking of Fourth Grade: What Listening to Kids Tells Us About Schools in America. In it, she offers a seemingly hyperbolic but paradoxically realistic glimpse into the complexities of teaching with a simple thought experiment. It reads as follows:

A thought experiment: tie your shoe. Now teach a five-year-old how to tie her shoe. Next teach that same child how to tie someone else's shoe. Now make picture instructions for the child who needs to see an image in order to learn. Now teach a child who has one arm how to tie her shoe. Now teach a child who is deaf to tie his shoe. And while you're at it, find some way to challenge that kid in the corner who already knows how to tie his shoe, has tied twelve different shoes in the last ten minutes, and is at the moment cutting construction paper into hundreds of pieces and sprinkling them on the floor in a game he is calling "rain storm."

Remember to incorporate technology into your lessons, or else you will lose points. Also, figure out some way to deliver the lesson in Spanish because an English-language learner has just transferred into your room yesterday and the district translator is in another building this morning. Don't neglect depth-of-knowledge (DOK), because we value critical thinking about the universal human need for protection against weather and the history of footwear. Be sure to connect shoe tying to English language arts. Recite a nursery rhyme? Compose a limerick?

Remember to be extra patient with the easily frustrated child whose mother just lost her job and has moved the family into a shelter. And hurry up, because your assistant principal is conducting a walk-through in an hour and if she sees that all of the children are not on task tying shoes at grade level, you will lose points for that day's observation, which may reflect poorly on your report, which will have hiring and salary consequences for you.

Oh, and please go ahead and pay out-of-pocket expenses for the extra shoelaces you need because the district is broke, state and federal funding has dried up, and your class's allocation of practice shoelaces has rotted away over the summer on account of the roof that has had a leak since last December having gone unrepaired, also because of budget cuts. And smile.

As you celebrate Thanksgiving with your families, take a moment to thank the past, present, and future teachers in your lives. Amid all the complexities, they do what they do because they love children and want to see them prosper.


Image credit:  woodleywonderworks/flickr

In : Recommended Reads 

Tags: "english-language learner" "inda schaenen" "speaking of fourth grade: what listening to kids tells us about schools in america" teaching learning students complexity