Long, long ago in high school, I was not an extrovert.
In fact, I was very quiet and unassuming, except to those that knew me best. I stuck to my own circles, and that seemed to suit me just fine.
I did not volunteer to "go first", raise my hand willingly, or offer up ideas. I was more likely to slink down in my chair, making myself as small as possible, to avoid drawing any attention. I was very smart, just kept it to myself.
So... here I am in 11th grade Advanced English. There are about 20 of us in the class, and because I was quiet and unassuming, I had the honor of sitting directly in front of the teacher.
I suppose he wanted to make sure that he had my attention... How could he not? I was close enough to see the coffee stains on the front of his shirt which was almost a daily occurrence.
So here we are getting our next assignment: A book report.
Great! This assignment was right up my alley. I have always loved to read and write, and in this instance, we could pick the book, as long as it was on the "approved book list".
BUT... there was a catch!!! (Insert Jaws theme here...)
In addition to writing the book report, we also had to present it orally to the class!
The entire class...
Quiet and unassuming me was concerned. How was I ever going to do that?!?!
Well, I quickly decided that I simply wasn't.
Well, the day came when my assignment was due. The report was delightfully crafted in APA format, and I was sure to get an 'A'.
As each of my classmates walked to the front of the classroom and stood next to the blackboard (it was the 80s...), my anxiety rose. I was dreading hearing my name called.
When I heard, "DJ, it's your turn.", I sat there.
That's right. I sat there... right in the front row. Slinking down in my chair once again, making myself as small as possible, to avoid drawing any attention.
"Come on. It's your turn."
Long story short, I did get an 'A' on my book report that was delightfully crafted in APA format. That was a win.
I got an 'F' for not sharing my report. That was a loss.
While this recount was from 1985, this practice of insisting that EVERY child do EVERYTHING the SAME way is still happening!
What was the goal of the teacher here: Was it to see if I understood the depth of content of my book? Or was it to see if I was able to present in front of my peers?
Let's shift our thinking...
Decide what the learning outcome is for students. (What do you want them to know?)
Give students options on how to represent and express their knowledge.
Support students in growing their confidence.
Recognize that our children are changing and so should our teaching
While it was upsetting to get a 'D' on my overall assignment, it was more upsetting that I was put in an uncomfortable and stress-inducing position.
Children should never go from an 'A' to a 'D' simply because they are quiet and unassuming.
Why do we still do that?