07 December 2008

"With such low expectations, it's easy to impress." Pamela Anderson

The mistake has been made, if you can call it that. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't.

For a math lesson I yanked a couple books off the shelf and flipped through the workbook, only to find it was too primary. I checked the beginning of the text book and created a plan for the lesson on the first two sections of the first chapter. Only after the lesson was over did I close the book to find a sequence of five dots on the binding. This math text is for students four grades ahead of mine.

Not that there was any problem with the lesson. She was working diligently with two sets of tens and sixteen sets of hundreds, and writing seven- and eight-digit numbers out longhand. We had even turned the expanded form of a number into a code, which she cracked easier than she had cracked arbitrary codes. Then she designed a place-value train.

People who write textbooks don't make the textbook into a teacher. The first chapter of any textbook is supposed to be review, maybe on a higher level, and possibly not at all challenging for a student. But, why give a student work that isn't challenging? My student laughs at me when I give her a lesson she can complete in less than ten minutes. If she doesn't come asking for a break, she comes out begging for more. The freedom of homeschooling is that I can put her on the edge of a her comprehension, and watch her shatter the standards for students her age with her experience.

Flirting with a six-year-old "edge" is a delicate task, and the key is to listen. The textbooks people write are not supposed to be the teachers. They are tools, kits, forums. That's what can't be done in a school, in a classroom, with classmates and a teacher who has such high expectations to meet they have to cover everyone with sweeping generalizations, like textbooks. There is no time to listen.

I am tired of people being impressed with my student's skills, her knowledge, her smarts.

Want to be a good teacher?

Learn to listen.

For more on Pamela Anderson

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