Friday, February 17, 2012

My Lying Pants

I am wearing pants that make me look 10 pounds slimmer.  I am wearing them because I want to look good in front of people and don't want to be subject to their judgment.  But the truth is, the pants aren't really fooling anyone.  I am pudgy right now, so they are just big fat "liar, liar, pants on fire" pants.

A beautiful gym recently opened a few miles away, so I joined.  I went wearing my lying pants.  No one pointed, no one laughed, and no one called me "fatty."  Instead, it was filled with people of every shape, size and color, all working in different ways to achieve their personal goals.  There were trainers there who were delighted to assist me.  They introduced me to a variety of machines, classes, and exercise options, helping me to find my "good fit" routine so I can reach my own goals.

Let's be honest, the work isn't fun.  However, I'm finding that as I begin reaping the benefits, my attitude about it all has started to shift.  It isn't fun yet….but I don't hate it anymore.

My lying pants remind me of Marcos.  I was a librarian a few years ago and Marcos, a third grader, was new to our school.   He was reading at a beginning first grade level, yet he carried Harry Potter around everywhere.  Marcos wanted to look like a reader, an impressive reader, so even though all he could do was point to and call out about 20 intermittent high frequency words when he found them, he carried his lie around.

We worked hard at that school to create a culture where everyone valued each other regardless of where they were in their learning journey; novice, apprentice, practitioner, or expert.  That resulted in a climate that felt safe, where genuine celebrations of growth happened everyday.  It was trickiest for new kids like Marcos, who hadn't yet learned to honor where they were in their own journeys.

So, how do we move students like that?

  • With a mixture of honesty, respect and transparency about the hard work it will take, as well as a passionate belief that it will be worth the effort.  (It is no more fun for a struggling reader initially than it was for me at the gym, but it will be worth it.)   
  • By having the ability to see the daunting goal and break it into smaller, more easily attainable increments.  (I don't have to try and lose 10 pounds in one week, which would doom me to failure, but 1-2 pounds a week is manageable.)  Our struggling readers need reachable goals.
  • By providing focused and intentional teaching and scaffolding that ensures success.  

The hard work will lead to results.  Results lead to an intrinsic sense of accomplishment and pride which helps perpetuate continuing effort and success.

The end result is that Marcos doesn't just look like a reader, he is a reader, and he rocks Harry Potter just like I will one day rock my lying pants.