I went out for a bike ride today. I was inspired by my RunVoxRun group (who runs while I bike because I am almost always that guy) and an article I read in Bicycle Magazine both of whom reminded me of the joy of riding, not just doing it for pre-defined purpose. As I was finishing my ride I realized that several of the things I experienced on the road compared to things I experience as a teacher.
The Scary Highway
I decided to ride out through a scenic but rather dangerous stretch of highway. As I pedaled along at about 10 miles per hour, don't judge me, I was passed by a steady stream of traffic headed the same direction. We were all headed the same way, just at different speeds. At some point, if we don't have an accident, we would all arrive at the same destination.
Imagine your slower students who are pedaling at the safest speed they can muster being passed by their classmates. There has to be a point when they realize they are not like most of the others, they learn/read/process more slowly than average. That has to be a difficult and potentially scary realization. What are you doing as their teacher to reassure them they will arrive at the same place the others are headed to, just not at the same time?
The Soccer Match Surprise
As I pedaled along I noticed cars at the park and could see people playing soccer so I decided to wander down and check it out. When I arrived I noticed the two teams were made up of Somali and Hispanic players. For the ten minutes I watched they ran up and down the field, kicking the ball and yelling at each other. I am not sure how much they understood from each other, but I didn't catch any of it. The game didn't need a common language to be played successfully.
In your classroom you have several groups of students, and regardless of the language they know, speak a very different language than others. The kids that can't sit still, the ones that have problems at home, those who are way too caught up in their boyfriend/girlfriend than they should be. They aren't really communicating with each other using the same language, but they still create a community where they want to find success, and hopefully help the others in the community find success too. How are you helping those students who 'speak a different language' find commonality they can share so they too care about each other's success?
The Chasing Chihuahuas
Just down the road from my home lives an old friend. He owns a cattle farm and as most cattle farmers do, he has several dogs. (He claims the small, annoying ones are his wife's.) Every time I ride my bike by his house the chihuahuas try to chase me. They have a pretty quick burst of speed but with their overly large heads (with funny eyes sticking out sideways) and little legs they cannot keep up with my super pedal power (averaging 10 miles per hour!) Soon they fall away and all I hear is their yippy barks in the background.
There are educators who IRL or through SM will lie in wait until you happen to cross the path of their particular pet peeve and as soon as you do they pounce. They yip and snarl and bite at your heels. They will try to make you turn your course or completely give up the journey all together. They don't thrive on the joys of the long ride, they instead revel in the time trial of blame and finger-pointing. Just remember, they can't keep up because of their overly large head, bug eyes and extremely short legs. Who do you have to turn to when waylaid by the chasing chihuahuas? Who will help you pedal past their lairs?
The End of the Ride
Ok, this is kind of a poor title because we know the ride never ends. We just keep pedaling. We have goals for ourselves and our students and we are constantly moving toward them. Sometimes we ride in groups, sometimes alone. Just remember, the end goal is less important than the stops on the way.