Remember back in January? With winter break’s optimism still wrapped around us like a big blanket, we made all those resolutions? Some of us pledged to work out regularly, read more, eat less junk food. I pledged to carve out some precious Joy Factor time in my class’s busy curriculum. It’s about time for a check-in.
Shortly after students came back from taking the January Regents exams at the end of January, I taught a lesson to my students on GRIT (it was very apropos, as we had just started Romeo and Juliet and they were ready to throw it against the wall). They had never heard the word before, and when one student took it upon himself to look it up he told me it was a punch of small rocks. So I decided to give a short mini lesson on it, and it has done wonders for my classroom culture.
What followed was a discussion I didn’t expect to have and didn’t immediately know how to handle.
A student with a learning disability raised his hand, “What if we don’t have any obstacles?” “We’re all disabled,” another student sharply shot back.
I intervened at this point, by explaining, briefly, the concept of disability. Simply, that the brain is wired in a certain way, but some people’s brains are wired differently. I draw some points on the board and a straight line between three of them. “This is the way some people’s brains work. They get information from one part of the brain to the other really easily and quickly.” In another color, I drew another line that took a roundabout way to get to the same end point as the previous line. “This is how some other brains work, the information gets there, it just takes some more time. That means we need to spend more time practicing how to get information from here. To here.”
I felt, for many of them, it was the first time anyone had had the conversation with them about what it meant to have a disability. That their brains were wired a little differently and needed to practice more to be able to do things others did easily. Students understand, now, why I push them so hard; why I coerce them to stay after school; why I never let them leave early.
Since then, I’ve had four True Grit All Stars, and the kids look forward to it every week.