"At the end of the school year my heart saddens for the average kid. The kid who didn't receive the plethora of accolades that others hauled home from end-of-the-year ceremonies. Not because the ones who received the awards weren't worthy of the award, but that there are a ton of kids out there giving it all they've got for the low B or the high C. Ah, those trophies and treasures. My prayer is that we all teach that those are the shiny things that are of greatest value living there on our insides. Character, commitment & excellence. Yes, everyone can excel in these three. May we all look to find these in each face we teach and parent." - Meghan Casey Cobble.
This blog post started with the above post my friend Meghan had on Facebook, but the sentiments could have been written by me. These are thoughts I deal with on a weekly basis. How best can we meet the needs of the average child and help them to see their worth and value? I've blogged around the idea before, today I will blog it headlong.
Schools spend extra time and money trying to meet the needs of student learning in the extremes- in fact, they are required by law to meet those students needs of the low achievers and the high achievers- therefore, the accountability of laws make states, administration, service staff, and teachers focus on these students. This is important, I am not saying that it isn't. Schools also spend funds trying to help students find their niche that isn't maybe "rigorously academic-based." For instance- the athlete, the actor, the singer, the artist, all have self confidence, much like the student that excels in learning due to the fact they have found something that pulls them out of the mundane of everyone else.
The average child that is not plugged in and the lower-level learners don't have this confidence thing going on. Yet that lower-level learner tends to have more one-on-one instruction/mentoring time to offset this issue. Connections matter! But what about the average child? How can we help them to feel confident and valued? My heart aches in this because there were times I was that kid. I was borderline average/above average most of my school career but the thing that kept me going was that I truly loved learning and had a knack for writing.
I have two children of my own that fall into that "average" ranking that don't necessarily love learning as a rule. Learning is hard for them at times. Frustrations are high for them at times. Successes are measured differently for them than for some students. There have been times I have definitely been guilty of pushing them too hard- as an educator and a mom. The truth is, there are times I've been disappointed as an educator and a mom- not just disappointed in their grades but in my inability to help them see their worth outside of their grades. I'll be honest, I probably own the angst of this more than the typical "mom educator" should.
How do I, as a mom, encourage them to be their best without smothering them or pressuring them? How do I, as an educator, see students like them and help them see their positive attributes to this world? It is a struggle for me, I will not lie, and I don't think I am alone. Average kids fly under the radar so much of the time- sometimes we don't know if they are meeting their potential or if they are skating on the "good enough" rink they have been placed.
Here is what I know- these are the kids that look back at high school and don't have a lot of fond memories. These are the kids that think there has to be an easier path, a better fit, nicer people, at the school down the road. These are the kids we often let down because they are either "easy," or because we perceive they just don't care so we don't seek to engage them. BUT these are the kids I'm passionate about- the kids I want to figure out better ways to reach. I'm open to suggestions and ideas, I'm willing to take the blame for my part, I want to help be a change agent in this area. Maybe it's because I was a "fall between the cracks" student that it makes me want to work hard to cause a culture change. Anyone with me?