My experience in working with students in every grade from one to ten as a learning coach has exposed me to a wide variety of classroom situations and students. The real eye-opener was my continual involvement in the creating of unit projects for math 10-3 class in our school division. I had ideas of how we could change the way we teach these kids and this utopia that we were going to meet their needs in such a unique and wonderful way. I actually was naïve enough at the beginning of their semester to think my work with their teacher was going to change education and schooling for these students, creating an amazing experience for them that would change their outlook of school.
Then we kept rolling out the projects at the end of each unit, knowing that we would want to modify the tasks and reflect on ways to improve it for future 10-3 students. The projects went okay. But it really wasn’t all that we had dreamed of. The students were scared to try these projects because of the unfamiliarity and the challenge that it presented. Real life is projects, which is why we thought the projects would be a powerful tool in helping these students. Real life doesn’t hand out worksheets. Yet the students prefer the worksheets and traditional style of testing over the projects that we created.
It was interesting to watch as I continually revisited the classroom, tweaked our approach, scaffold the assignments, yet saw a significant resistance to the work and effort required to do the projects. All of the students were able to complete the projects and produce quality work, but it required a ton of probing, pushing, and at times pleading to get them to do the assignment. They were not nearly as enthusiastic as we expected them to be. The reason for this was clear to us – these students believe that they are completely incapable of doing the math.
Each student could actually answer my questions and do the work, but they really didn’t believe they could do it on their own. After numerous conversations with students in this class, it became clear that our education system had beaten these kids down and ruined their self-esteem year after year after year. By grade 10, these students have been led to believe that they are not smart and they will not succeed in math.
We need to change this. This is why we believe in doing this work of UDL. As a system we need to change our approaches to teaching, assessing, working with students who have unique needs, learning styles, and challenges. These students are brilliant. They are fully capable of achieving great things in life if they would have opportunities for success to build their confidence and help them realize their full potential. Unfortunately, to date most of the students have gone through an education system that has failed to realize their needs and failed to bring out the true potential and abilities that these students have. Our one-size-fits-all approach can no longer be the approach. It doesn’t work. And it’s not someone else’s problem. It’s all of our problems, and we need to work together to achieve this.
Brett Seatter with Margryt Rispens
This blog and resources website has been developed through the work of various AISI coaches in PHRD. The lead collaborative teachers for the 2015/2016 school year, Cheryl Frose, Christine Quong and Tammy Tkachuk will continue to update this site. If you have resources you would like to share or would like to contribute to the blog, please contact us.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada License.