What can you do?

September 14, 2012 at 11:42 am 1 comment

What can you do? Quite often, it’s these four little words that get lost when teachers and parents “assess” students.  

If you’re a teacher, imagine hearing this from your principal;

“You can’t be nice today. You don’t know how to treat kids. You can’t lead our staff. You can’t get here on time. You don’t know your standards. You don’t know how to teach that.”  

So imagine when students hear;

 “He doesn’t know how to read that book. This work is too hard for her. She doesn’t know her basic facts.  Didn’t you learn that last year?”

At some time in our lives, we are all guilty of looking at the glass as half empty instead of half full. When it comes to teaching kids, or anyone for that matter, we need to constantly be reminded that the glass is half full!  We need to be very cognizant of what we are saying and how we are saying it.  People do believe what they hear, especially kids.  Let’s be real, students CAN do!  It’s our job as educators to find out what they CAN do, and take it from there.  

I don’t think I need to pontificate about this for much longer, but I do want to share an A-HA moment that a teacher had the other day.  I’m so proud of her for being aware of her thinking and how it was defeating her and her students.  I’m helping two elementary schools with a math-focused book study this year.  We’re reading, Children’s Mathematics, Cognitively Guided Instruction by Thomas Carpenter.  A particular teacher who has admitted she doesn’t like math, nor does she like teaching it came up to me as soon as I arrived at the school Wednesday  morning, she was all aglow and eager to share her A-HA moment with me.  I love when teachers get excited to share their  learning! She told me when she collected the students’ work on bar graphs the previous day, upon first glance, she said, “These are awful.” Then she thought, reflected better yet, “No these are not awful, this is what my students CAN do right now.”  That night she went through each of her student’s bar graphs they’d created in class that day, and made notes about what they did get, what they could do, and then adjusted her lesson plans for the following day to address what they were still learning about bar graphs.  YES!

I do believe that this teacher is going through a major shift in her thinking and I’m excited to see what she wants to share next time I’m at that school.  

Please consider what you are saying and how you are saying it, especially in the presence of students.  Find out what they can do, tell them what they can do, affirm that, and then phrase how you will help them get better or learn more.  You will be pleasantly surprised to see how much growth they make when they know, that you know, they CAN!


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Misconceptions Tweeps Worth Following

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. bstockus  |  September 15, 2012 at 12:22 am

    Thanks for sharing that story! First, I love the book you’re reading with those teachers. I learned a LOT from it. Second, teachers can easily feel threatened by outside folks (coaches, principals, other teachers). It says a lot that she feels safe enough with you to share her initial reaction, which was fairly negative. It says even more that she caught herself and changed her perspective. Way to go! I hope you and those teachers have many more positive stories to share throughout the year. 🙂


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Kristen Hahn

September 2012
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