Assumptions

I still remember my brother’s first day of high school.  There are three years of difference between us so there were lots of differences.  His frustration at supper that night was all of the teachers that said “Oh, you’re Doug’s brother.  You must be …. ” and rambled off a list of attributes that they just naturally assumed that he had.  Nothing could be further from the truth; he had all kinds of different abilities and skills.

Related to this theme is this blog post from Rusul AlRubail “STUDENTS ARE NOT ALLOWED IN HERE! #ILOOKLIKEAPROFESSOR” and her story about her interpretation of assumptions made about her as an instructor.

Both of these were going through my mind as I read an article about how teachers should prepare for the first day of classes by going through student records and creating a profile from their data and comments from previous teachers so that they could start the school year the best informed.  Not surprisingly, it focused on student misbehaviours and essentially advocated “knock ’em down and keep them down” so that they learn their place.

It was an article that deeply offended me and everything that I think I know about teaching.

You’re with the students for the next term, semester, year.  I distinctly remember talking to a student who was late for one of my classes because he had an appointment with a new vice-principal.  He was so impressed with her – “She didn’t even look through my record to see what I’d done before.  She wanted to talk about what I had done now and give me a chance to make it right.  I like her and I think I’m going to try to be better.”  The clean slate approach had made such an impression.

When you think about it, the last time a student was a student at your school was two months ago.  A lot can happen in two months.

  • certainly, there’s two months of growth as a human;
  • there might be a girl/boy friend gained or lost;
  • there could have been a family crisis;
  • there could have been a summer school experience;
  • there could have been divine intervention;
  • there could have been the experience of being a leader on a winning team;
  • there could have been an achievement in swimming class;
  • there could have been an experience of dealing with the public with a summer job;
  • there could have been …  well, you get the picture.

This current commercial from McDonald’s sums it up nicely.

There is every chance that that student might be completely different from the student that left the school in June, for better or for worse.

All students show up first day with blank notebooks and new pencils/pen and, if you’re lucky, their own electronic device with the ability to create new documents.

Shouldn’t they all have the opportunity to start anew and prove themselves and their abilities to you without the baggage of the past?  Give them the opportunity to prove themselves to you.

Do you really want to continue with your or someone else’s assumptions that may not be correct going forward?

4 thoughts on “Assumptions

  1. I always tell my students whose siblings I have had previously that it they ignore what their siblings say about me I will ignore what their siblings say about them. I always find siblings to be different from each other and try to make up my mind independently.

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  2. Struggling with this one a little after my first day. I, as an elementary Core French teacher, can have students for 5 years in a row. When that’s a positive relationship, it can be amazing, and bring us both phenomenal opportunities for learning and growth. When a student and I struggle with one another, 5 years can be a really long time. That hit home today, when I found myself (and some of my students) falling back into our default patterns. I like to think that I’m a better teacher than that, and that I’m willing to give my students a new chance, every day, let alone every year. I think what I’m feeling bruised about today is that I’m not sure I get offered the same chance.
    Lots to work through. Thanks for the think.

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