I can’t remember exactly how the conversation began, but I know where we were. The kids were lining up for recess, and a child asked, “Where did you work before you became our teacher?”
I respond. “I used to work with all of the teachers at this school. We would meet and plan what to teach. When your teacher was absent for part a day, sometimes she was with me, and we were learning together.”
Child – “Now it all makes sense. That is why it is hard.”
Me: “What do you mean it is hard?”
Child: “Everything I learn is hard.”
Me: In my head, I am freaking out, but I say, “Thanks for telling me that the work feels hard. I want to know more about this, but I also don’t want you to miss recess. Will you tell me more later?
This is a conversation that happened on the half-day before winter break and the day ended before I got the chance to listen. What surprised me the most about this comment was who said it. Reading and writing come easy to this student, and I’ve spent time figuring out what he knows and some possible next learning steps.
As a reader, he can retell what happened in the text but hasn’t learned how to move beyond the literal meaning. So my goal has been to help him expand his thinking about the texts he reads. To support him and his reading partner, I created this SeeSaw Choice Board. They work together on Google Meet and read folktales, fairytales, and picture books they choose. Then they discuss and sometimes write or draw their ideas. He first retells all of the events and then thinks about them and asks, “So what is the biggest problem these characters face?”
Each day, I confer with these readers to help them “grow their thinking.” Has it been too hard? Too much? Not joyful enough? Or is “hard” just the way learning feels sometimes?
All this time, I’ve worried about making sure this child has a year’s worth of growth like everyone else, and his perception is that the work is hard. I have to admit; this comment took me by surprise.
I can’t wait to revisit this conversation when we return from break. I have so many questions:
- What parts of learning feel hard? Is it specific activities or lessons?
- When does learning feel hard? Is it hard when you work on your own, with your partner, or when we work together?
- What are your thoughts about “hard”? Is this something you enjoy, is it stressful, or is it something else entirely?
- Is this a new feeling for you or something you have felt before?
Now, I won’t pepper him with all of these questions at once. Over time, and as we get to know one another even more, I will learn. But, I can’t wait to hear what he has to say.