Thursday, December 15, 2016

Amplifying Student Voice

Recently, I had a student "teach" me how to solve a Rubik's Cube.

This experience found its way into our next staff meeting.

This student and I recreated the entire scenario.  He had a cube and I had a cube.  This time I had an audience of my peers, not his.  His instructions were faster than I could follow and I got lost a few times.  He said "move top left", I went right.  He said "bottom right", I went left.  He whispers to me, "now I know how you guys feel.  This is hard."  I couldn't look at him because I was dialed into my failure.   I began to feel flushed and was tempted to just give up and tell the staff, "well, you get the point."  We didn't quit and I'm glad because the tension in the room was important.  This is the same tension our students feel when right answers matter and they don't know them.

I juxtaposed this experience with a visual pattern.  I gave very simple instructions for the staff to demonstrate what figure 100 would look like.  This wasn't a math activity at this moment; it was an opportunity for individuals to describe what they see and understand.  There was no "right way" to describe the 100th figure.  You want to draw a picture? Go ahead.  Use a table?  Sure.  How about a verbal description?  Of course.

The math notation or vocabulary wasn't necessary for everyone to enter into the task, however it could prove useful for explaining to someone else.

There are so many layers to this experience for me.

As we were going through the process of trying to solve the cube, I was incredibly frustrated.

My "teacher" was telling his story without considering mine.  He shared his connections and ignored mine.  He gave many instructions and kept going assuming I heard them and responded appropriately. I didn't.

This is where we fail our students.  We assume we have a shared understanding/experience with our students.  We don't.

A staff member later told me she was frustrated because she wasn't sure what connections I wanted her to make.  But then she said, "Then I realized, that was the point.  We needed to make our own connections."

This is what Max means when he says 2 > 4.  Or Dan when he suggests we cast students as the hero.

At least, that's what I think.