Thursday, November 12, 2015

Let that Fish Climb

at 8:22 PM
I've been seeing a lot of this comic, or similar sentiment recently. It's mostly being used as propaganda against standardized testing. And while I'm not necessarily a fan of standardized testing, or at least of the way it's used in this country, wielded as a tool to judge students and teachers alike, I've come to the realization that I don't agree with this sentiment.

Not one bit.

Because those who believe this, who propagate this, are causing more problems than they're solving. And they probably don't even realize it.

I spend the majority of my teaching time correcting students opinions of themselves. My students come to me believing they can't do x, y, or z because of something they've been told all their lives. Whatever it may be. They learn it from their parents, their culture, from our society... from our media.

"You can't judge a fish by their ability to climb a tree."

This implies that you don't believe that fish can climb a tree.
By using this to argue against standardized testing, you're implying that you don't believe certain students can achieve ...whatever it is you're testing. 

Why can't that fish climb that tree?

I spend my days trying to convince my students they are capable.

People have taught them that they are not. Well-meaning adults have given them excuses for why they can't achieve. It hinders them. It becomes an issue of self-confidence. It makes them scared to try.

I have ADD, so I can't focus. Wrong. I have ADD so I have to try harder to focus. I have to use tools to stay focused. I might need breaks every few minutes to focus.

My family doesn't speak English, so I can't understand the assignment. Wrong. My family doesn't speak English, so I spend extra time practicing my vocabulary. I use a dictionary to help me translate unfamiliar words. I might need extra help understanding before I can complete the assignment.

Fish can climb trees.

Anything is possible.

You are capable.

Our students come to us with so many different abilities, backgrounds, etc. They are all as different as those animals in the comic above.

Maybe that fish can't climb a tree now. But that doesn't mean it won't ever be able to.

Maybe the fish will evolve, grow some limbs. I'll take time and possible an outside influence to change. But change can happen.

Maybe that fish will problem solve and invent a machine to help him climb.

Maybe the monkey will take the fish up to the top. Group work and communication are the foundations of most major companies.

These are skills I spend every day trying to teach my students: problem solving, patience, the ability to work with others, to use the resources you have around you to help you succeed.

These are the important things adolescents need to learn.

They are capable.

I was raised being told I could do anything I wanted, could grow up to be anything I wanted to be.
...but I'd have to put in the work and effort to achieve it.

We need to stop telling kids they can't.

Because they can.

We need to teach them perseverance. Not give them excuses.

Because they are capable of anything.

They are capable of everything.

Fish can climb trees.

You just have to believe it.


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