Things I Know 20 of 365: If I’d “taught” him, I’d have broken him

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

– Albert Einstein

We were playing with outlining today.

Rather than peddle the same kind of linear thinking Mrs. Rupple taught me in 7th grade, I tried a different approach.

“What are some ways you’ve planned your writing that have been successful?”

And then they shared.

“Write these down,” said I, “You might need them when you get stuck.”

The old favorites such as Roman numerals and webs and bullet points were offered up.

They weren’t alone.

One student talked about coming up with a topic, journaling about it and then moving the pieces around until they made sense. Where she sensed weakness, she knew she needed to do research.

Another student picks a topic, starts researching and tags the useful articles in delicious. When tagging, he lists the important points he wants to reference in his paper as bullet points in the notes section of the tag. When it’s time to write, he calls up the tag and has all his notes listed.

Then there was Andre.

He didn’t know it, but Andre was the inspiration for today’s lesson.

Yesterday, as the students were preparing the information they’d uncovered from their research, Andre spoke up.

“Mr. Chase, yo, I don’t do outlining. That’s not how I think.”

“How do you plan your writing?”

“I see it in pictures.”

He explained it to the class today:

  1. Pick a topic. (effects of integration on minorities)
  2. Picture the topic. (historically black towns)
  3. Zoom in on the picture. (citizens of those towns of different classes interacting)
  4. Picture how things change with outside influences. (black citizens with wealth moved closer to white citizens of wealth and separated from their previous communities)
  5. Cut to the effects of the change. (citizens without wealth suffered because the community structure had been compromised)

And that is his process.

It works for him. More to the point, it’s how his brain works for him.

I could never have taught Andre this method.

More frightening, if I’d attempted to teach Andre outlining, my method would have worked against everything his brain was telling him.

“What about when you need to find outside sources to back up your arguments?” asked I.

Easy. He does an image search using the keywords from his topic. When he finds a picture that appears to fit the bill, he goes to the source page and reads the related information.

It’s not how my brain works.

It’s how Andre’s brain works.

It works well.

I’m so glad I asked.

6 thoughts on “Things I Know 20 of 365: If I’d “taught” him, I’d have broken him

  1. Wow. That is all I can say right now. Great idea for a lesson. Great that your student knows what works for him, and was comfortable enough in class to share his thought process.

  2. I've noticed a lot of my kids researching through image searches. I would never search for information that way, but it does seem to work for them.

  3. This post made me clap – then cry. This is where the “ideal” educational models I find online run full bore into what is “reality” for me as a parent with kids who think outside the box and learn differently. Andre is lucky to have you as a teacher, but every teacher won't be you. So what happens then?What happens to Andre when the assignment or rubric includes a traditional outline as part of the assignment and grade? I understand that Andre doesn't think in a traditional way. And I understand that his way works for him – and probably gets the job done just as well – and IS COMPLETELY VALID. But assessment in MOST schools does NOT allow for this type of alternative thought process – and in fact discourages it in favor of teaching him the “right” way.I have a 9 year old who is extremely aurally tuned-in. Someone tapping on a chair across the room can distract her from her work, but there is no such thing as a quiet place in her school, at least not one that is close to her classroom. She is also very dramatic in her expression. When she goes to write a paper, she is “stumped” on how to start in on the writing every. single. time. But if the teacher comes over and “interviews” her, she can talk it out – as if she's on stage – and get right to the point which enables her to start writing.But the bottom line is that until she learns to think, then write (without talking it out) and until she learns to block out extraneous sounds, her assigned tasks in school will continue to be difficult. This year (and past years), she's been blessed with teachers who recognize her intelligence and different learning challenges. But the teachers at the school she's likely to attend next year aren't as accommodating. Does she need “accommodation” for her different gifted learning style? How do we as parents go to bat for her without appearing that we are asking for favors to improve her grades? Does she just need to learn how to deal with the world as she finds it? And we – WE as parents were taught (implicitly) to teach our kids how to navigate the “system” and & that grades reflect the success of that training. How do we live the reality that grades don't matter when, let's face it, they DO matter. THESE are the types of HARD QUESTIONS parents face when parenting a child who, like Andre, thinks differently from most of us.Sorry for the questions with no answers, but that's all I have…

  4. Debbie has a point–they won't all be like you. However, that won't matter too much to Andre now because I think you've validated something for him by pushing this as far as you did and giving him the opportunity to fully explain how we thinks. I don't ever remember anyone in formal schooling asking me how I thought or what method I would use to outline. It was just a given. I'm going to share this with a staff member or two today.

  5. Pingback: No, Thank You! « Train of Thought

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