I had a student ask me this question a couple of weeks ago. The question was sent electronically; not face to face. At first it took my breath – I mean, should I be insulted? What was the student really saying? Was the student suggesting I wasn’t teaching?
For a moment my brain went redneck. I thought, “Ok, Bucko – tighten yer bull rope. I’ll show you challenging.” Fortunately, I took a moment to think. This student was not challenging my authority or my teaching – they were just…. bored. This kid was just asking to be taught. I really think they trusted me enough to feel they could ask that question. That’s a good thing.
How could I respond? Of course there are projects and labs and extension activities. The problem is – that’s more work for me. Before you think how lazy that sounds let me say, I may be many things – but I’m not lazy. The truth is I don’t have the time for anything else; that includes finding engaging extensions for this student. I will admit that doesn’t sit well with me. I just let the comment go; I didn’t respond right away. I needed to sit on it a while.
I saw the student a few days later and had an opportunity to open a conversation about the comment. The student said they hoped I didn’t take the comment the wrong way. I assured him I hadn’t. I simply admitted I wasn’t sure how to accommodate his request. We talked for a bit and I assured him I was thinking about it. We moved on.
Last night I saw the student at our late night tutorial (we keep the school open one night a week until 8:00 PM). He sat across a table from me and worked on his physics. He asked a few questions and then finished his work. We just chatted for a bit. The whole time he is browsing for physics experiments and demos he could do. I have to tell you this was killing me. I had to find a way to help this kid. Then lightning struck – I knew what to do.
I talked to the Ag teacher today and got permission to use a corner of the Ag shop. I have a place to work now – awesome! Now I just need to bring my students together and pitch my idea.
Today I had a perfect opportunity. I have four boys in the same class. They are hard working country boys with a lot of common sense. They breeze through physics. Well, two breeze through and two do well – that’s more accurate. They are the same in math. I work closely with the math teacher and I know they are bored in her room also at times. These kids are fabricators – three of the four are taking a college credit welding class. Math, physics, and fabrication – a trifecta of talent.
I gathered them together today and showed them the blueprints to the hovercraft. They went to the website and watched the promotional video. I asked them if they wanted to build one… I swear one boy nearly teared. They were looking at me and I could see their question, “Are you for real?” I assured them this was a real offer. I have never seen four students more excited.
The deal is: When they are caught up in physics or math, or after school – they can work on the hovercraft. I am going to ask they keep a weebly page and keep a 180 style blog. They have to take photos and make entries to document the process.
Here’s the best part: these are “regular” physics students. These are students that were forced to take physics – against their will. These four students are finding talent in both math and physics they didn’t know they had. One has a learning disability. One told me he had “never done well in any science class ‘till this one.” One now has aspirations to become an engineer.
I’m excited. They are excited. It all started when one student had the courage to reach out and ask to be challenged. Is there any better advertisement for building relationships and listening to what our students say? As the title suggests, there is no great moral to this story – I just wanted to share something my students and I are excited about.