Perception is a tricky thing

Several months ago my wife and I needed a new car.  We did the research and looked at a wide range of cars.  We eventually found a car that we hadn’t seen on the road before.  It was a Ford Fusion.  We love everything about the car and found a dealership that was nearby with a great deal.  As soon as we took it home I noticed something.  There are a lot of Ford Fusions out on the road.  Not only that, but there are a lot of cars on the road that came from this dealership that I had never heard of until that day.
 
Perception is a funny thing.  We tend to perceive what is important to us and what directly impacts our world.  Our brains filter everything else out, it’s just background noise.  What I thought was a unique car, was actually fairly common, but I didn’t perceive that until I needed to single it out from the noise.
 
It’s easy to fall into that trap in the classroom as well.  There are times when students will bring things to my attention that I don’t realize are occurring.  Sometimes they are pointing out that an assignment’s instructions are confusing or that they feel I’m treating the class unfairly when I give them a consequence.  It’s uncomfortable.  Nobody likes someone to call them out for something they perceive is wrong.
 
I don’t always agree with their assertions, but that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that they have this perception.  I have two choices: either I can ignore it and hope they change their minds or I can take the time to look at the situation through their eyes and try to figure out why they feel the way they do. Change can’t happen unless I can truly understand all sides.  
 
Ultimately, I may still disagree with them. But seeing the world through their eyes gives me the opportunity to present myself in a different manner while still attaining the same results.  And sometimes I come to realize they were right all along.
The world would be a much better place if we could all take the time to perceive things through another’s eyes.

Kicking off a new school year…

Tomorrow I will begin my ninth year of teaching.  This is my 9th year of preservice trainings.  My 9th year of new initiatives and new ideas for transforming our classrooms.  My 9th year of detailed explanations about why my assessment data should be better.
It’s easy to drown in all the minutia of school, the directives and new pedagogy that will revolutionize teaching.  Sometimes it’s important to reflect and remember why we do what we do.
I don’t teach because I want to transform my students into test taking masters.  I don’t teach because I relish the thought of torturing my students with stories they won’t care about.  I teach because I know that I can help guide my students toward a better understanding of who they are.
This year my grade level counterparts and I are focusing on three themes in Language Arts: survival, identity, and hope.  I want my kids to read and write in my class, not solely to become prolific readers and writers.  I want my kids to read and write in my class to discover who they are and to realize that who they are MATTERS.  I teach world changers.  I teach kids who can move mountains and innovate.  I’m teaching the generation that will find peace in the chaos.  I teach so that my students will see the good in the world, to show them that there is hope for the future.  I teach them so that I can remind MYSELF that there is hope in the world.
Tomorrow I will walk through those doors and look into the eyes of my students, and I will be happy knowing that the future is in their hands.
As you go about your school year, I wish you all the best and hope that you take some time to reflect.  Remember that it’s not about a test, or a reading score, or a grade.  It’s not about instituting the correct lesson plan format or the correct note-taking strategy.  It’s about ensuring that your students walk out of your classroom a better person than when they entered it, that they are more prepared for their future, and most importantly that they are ready to make the world a better place.