Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Voices of China, E03: Why I'm a So-So Student

Part 3 of The Voices of China Series continues with question 3.

3) Did you do well in class? Why/why not?

So-so: While I'm not at all surprised by this answer, I wanted to know the deeper reasons with every student who said it because (and they know) I believe it's a cop-out. So though a majority of the fifth graders gave this answer, there are two categories to which they belong. Quite understandably so, I might add, but I will get to that later. Until then, hear ye...hear ye...the following are the top two reasons why students think they are just "so-so."

I didn't listen in class. 
Classic. From early on, students are instructed to sit up, not touch their pencils while teachers talk, not talk with others, and listen to the sage on the stage with ease. Because of this definition of "good" behavior being ingrained in their mind from such an early age, I wasn't at all surprised to hear many students reason this way. It pained me every time, but I knew a time to speak into their lives and guide them in new directions would come.
I'm not good at English. 
Being good at languages carries a higher than normal weight with it when attending an elementary school known, in a city of 8 million, for its English program. Because a lot of students possibly don't do well on their English homework, midterms, revisions, class activities, and tests, they aren't confident in their second (or third) language. Notice the previous assessments listed, read them through a few more times, and reconsider why a student would say this. It shouldn't be too hard.

These reasons are reinforced from kindergarten. That's more than five years, 900 school days of behavior- and test-focused performance being cemented in their minds. These reasons are traditional and will culturally be hard to change. But(!) they are on the brink of shifting. Why would I say such a thing?! Because my students agree with me on particular topics of education. They despise tests. They hate listening to somebody who teaches to a test. They want to learn how they learn best. Thus, I stated some comments at the end of last semester in our class meetings.

1) If you don't understand me, you're not a bad student. If you understand me, you're not a good student.
2) People are different. Some students can listen and do something else at the same time.

Any teacher can tell you to start with what the students know (schema) before approaching new knowledge. This past week then I touched on these two statements within the context of our class studying Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences. Believe it or not, it's in our curriculum! The students learned how everyone is made differently, particularly in the brain. Therefore they know and can apply the fact that we are all smart in various ways. It's not the test nor the score that tells you how smart you are. (I received more than one "yeah" from the students on that one.)
Now connect those thoughts with the basic standards I gave the students last week, and you have 60+ fifth graders looking at the content (what) they need to know and creating their own processes (how) in acquiring language and information. More details are being worked out while we have also started sites for each class on Kidblog. There are a lot of new things going on in my classes this semester, and at times, I don't know what to think or how to feel. What I do know is that 60+ students are seeing me take risks, fail, brainstorm, and move forward. All they while, they're doing it with me.

This is what makes all of them more than just "so-so."

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