Who might we be underestimating?
Every week, I get to meet the most thoughtful, eager, and entertaining kids. Sadly, on almost the weekly basis, I have teachers who describe those very same kids as “low”. I often don’t agree. I see many of those kids as thoughtful, cautious, afraid of making mistakes and being embarrassed in front of their peers. I see kids who think differently, whose answers don’t fit inside of a neat little box, but still make sense. I see kids who can take blank pieces of paper and turn them into magical color-coded mathematical representations.
Why are these kids defined/labeled as “low”? I think sometimes we may mistake silence for lack of knowledge. Their silence may be a sign of thinking deeply or learning. I believe we sometimes misread students’ silence as lack of engagement, but perhaps, many of these students have learned they are probably not going to be called on any way and have learned to opt-out. I, too have definitely opted out of learning in some of the classrooms I have been in. Maybe, some of these students asked one too many questions and received negative feedback as a result of their questioning (I can raise my hand to that one, too). Maybe, the learning style of many of the “low” students doesn’t match our own teaching style (my hand is raised). Maybe, their not “low”, maybe they just learn differently.
I highly recommend watching the interview with Eric Weinstein, we never know who we might be underestimating or mislabeling.
And for the record, I do believe my multi-talented funny and kind friend is intelligent. I also believe that many saw her ability to amazing ability to memorize facts, stopped there, and said that’s good enough. We have to ask ourselves now that we have some space to breathe, is knowing the how without the why truly good enough? Are we giving the kids who might know the why, time and space to figure out the how?