Listen, Learn, Trust, and Expect

While planning for an after school reading clinic I do twice a week with some middle schoolers, I stumbled across a Ted Talk given by an inspiring young girl named Adora Svitak. While I watched it and took notes so that I could use it for a mentor text to show how I would use a strategy to help determine central idea, I discovered that this young lady was speaking to me…to all of us who teach!

Some quotes that stood out to me…

Learning between grown ups and kids should be reciprocal. The reality, unfortunately, is a little different, and it has a lot to do with trust, or a lack of it.

Adora Svitak

Now, what’s even worse than restriction is that adults often underestimate kids abilities. We love challenges, but when expectations are low, trust me, we will sink to them. 

Adora Svitak

No matter your position or place in life, it is imperative to create opportunities for children so that we can grow up to blow you away.

Adora Svitak

I have definitely learned from many years in the classroom that I don’t have all the answers, and in my role as instructional coach, I have learned just how important it is to admit that I am not the expert. For me, the more I’ve embraced this thinking, the more effective I have felt as an educator.

I learn from adults and kids every single day.

But something I’ve noticed when I have been modeling for teachers is that fourth grade has some really awesome ideas, and they are not afraid to explore them. My experience is as I model for grade levels above fourth grade, the students become less and less apt to share their thinking or even to explore it. It’s like they are afraid to be wrong. That self doubt that Adora Svitak speaks about of adults seems to start creeping in and by seventh and eighth grade it becomes stifling.

As self doubt creeps in I wonder if as teachers we begin to scaffold more and more thinking they can’t think deeply. But what if the scaffolding is causing more problems because we begin to expect less and take on more responsibility than the kids?

In my position where I work with so many grade levels in one day, it’s interesting how that same text can feel too hard for older grades.

Recently it feels like everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned from fourth grade, and I make a huge deal out of that because it IS a huge deal and it needs to be celebrated. But every time you learn something from a student, I encourage you to make it the biggest deal.

I encourage you to not always go into every lesson having all the answers or worse all the “right” answers. I encourage you to provide opportunity after opportunity to learn from your kids and trust them to do that. I encourage you to raise the expectations and stop looking at them with a “They can’t do this” mindset because if that’s what you believe, that is what you will get from them.

I wish everyone had the opportunity to teach lower grade levels to see just how brilliant they are before the need to be right or fear of being wrong takes over. It would completely change how you approach your students.

And it was a child who reminded me of what deep down I already knew but sometimes can forget: listen, learn, trust and expect.

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