30 March 2010

Changing Demographics = Changing Expectations?

My classroom discussion for this week is: What influence do differing demographics have on the following: Planning, Instruction, Classroom management, Assessment, Achievement, and Expectations?

This was my response: Before I start my response to this I want to share a link:

The link is a clip from a Family Guy episode. The humor is a bit rough, but if you can get past it, you can see why I thought of it as soon as I read the discussion question. In this episode, The [talking dog] has a job teaching in an affluent [white] neighborhood. He loves it; he makes corny content-related jokes, and does cooky performances that the class loves. It is a teaching utopia. Then he gets transferred to an inner city class where they make a reference to the movie "Stand and Deliver." He tries to do the same things he did in the previous class, and comes in excited to teach, but the kids, and their lives break him down until he comes in unshaven and looking like a hobo. This is a satirical clip, but it isn't until he drops his expectations that he creates some kind of connection with the students. I bring this up for two reasons: 1) we need to meet students where they are, and SHOW them how to get to where they want to go. I've watched kids give up under the weight of a teacher's unattainably high expectations. 2) We need to be flexible and creative in how we connect and engage our students. What works with one group may not work with another, and it could be the same class taught in the same day, but kids are different. I am not one to force kids to feel like a cog in the machine... those are the grown folks that go postal on their work places.

After sharing this with my wife, she asked me WHY expectations would be different?  One of the things that can be assumed is the idea of a normal family environment for students.  She pointed out that kids who live in rich neighborhoods may not have close relationsghips to their parents because they may be out working all the time, they may not have a healthier diet because a Venti Soy Chai latte in the mornings in not nutritional either.  The point I want to get across is this: as educators, we need to meet where they are... exactly where they are.  Id doesn't matter if they are different race, economic level, or academic ability.  Students will not achieve under low expectations, nor will they succeed under expectations that are too high for them to relate to. 

The bar cannot be set across the same level for all demographic setting.  If failure to one person is success to another, the bar cannot be set the same for both.  If minimal requirements for one is to just show up and for another it is to get a B, then the bar cannot be set the same. 

This is not a matter of where kids are, but how to get them to where they want to go. 

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