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Failing Perspectives

The one aspect of childhood that I desperately attempt to maintain is the unfiltered audacity to dream and imagine the world from my own personal view. Through my children, I vicariously use their lenses to live in this realm of technology which helps to force an open-minded approach to other's reality. I'm always asking my kids what they are imagining while performing the various task. My oldest son has this strange addiction to video games. Not sure where that came from, but he is very consumed. When I sit and play with him, my goal is to observe his actions rather than do whatever it takes to crush him for bragging rights. I'll ask him why he made certain moves or what was he thinking when...etc. His imagination is flowing while playing which gives birth to his ability to problem solve. Now I may not have made the same moves, but it worked for him. The way he visualized the moment allowed him to come to his own conclusion and I've learned as a father and educator to be okay with that. My job is to continue to expose him to new situations, new problems, new experiences in order to enhance "his" way of analyzing, evaluating, problem-solving and his ability to create. This approach also helps me when I work with teachers wanting to implement technology in the classroom.

Now, this is the typical weekend for all of my kids, playing to see how they think in order to treat them as individuals. So when I walk into a teacher conference this past week and I hear an educator say that she was upset at a child because he doesn't color "appropriately", I was a little discouraged. I stopped the conversation to ask what does "appropriately" mean and according to who. Her response wasn't to explain her thought, instead, she chastises the student for not listening for the past two weeks that they have been covering "appropriate" coloring. Then she explains to me that a child's ability to color has a direct correlation to his ability to read and comprehend. After taking a deep breath, I asked to see the picture and the child's TPRI and DRA results. The student's drawing was beautifully different; filled with imagination and personal perspective, according to my opinion. I looked at his results next. As a 1st grade student, he completed level 20 with no frustration and was reading at 86 WPM. I begin to chuckle, which may have been unprofessional at the moment, but I couldn't help myself. I asked the teacher where was the validation in her previous statement connecting coloring to reading. She hesitated...

I proceeded...Could it be that this child took your two weeks of instruction, made an inference to mold his own understanding? Then identified with what he already brought to the table. Matched the two up and justified his understanding in order to draw a new conclusion. He then could have devised his plan, compared it to your example and through his analysis, came up with his own truth. Could it be? I then asked if she ever thought about asking the student what he was thinking while creating his masterpiece? It just so happen that the kid was waiting outside and the teacher brought him in and simply asked him what made his picture "appropriate". He confusedly responds, "Not everyone looks the same. I kept looking in the mirror and I tried to draw myself, but then I looked at my friend and the other people at my table and thought I would put everybody together." (I actually wrote what he said down.) The fuss was about the mouth on the drawing. The student had taken a brown, pink, peach, and a light purple crayon and combined the colors for the mouth. He created an image of his group.

This student takes home an extra paper reader, basic sight word sheets, and phonetic spelling words home on a weekly basis all because his perspective of a drawing did not match up with his teacher's and she used this to determine his ability to learn. To me, that is failing to meet that child where he is. Failing to take the time to see how he thinks. Failing to get down to his eye level to see how he processes as an individual student. When will we as educators stop dictating what are students should think and allow them to draw their own conclusions without the need to validate our authority by proving who is right or wrong? Does the color of the mouth truly matter? A child's ability to create a world of their own is a precious gift that is being stifled in many classrooms. Not everyone colors the world the same, but does that make their perspective inappropriate? The truth was later admitted that this teacher wanted the drawings all to look a certain way in order for her to put them outside on display. She wanted the drawings to make her look good as a teacher and was not concerned with how the student looked at life.

So what's your perspective?

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