Not All Students “POP” at the Same Time

 

I saw this picture on Twitter about a year ago and it’s been on my mind ever since. It was displayed outside of a Kindergarten classroom during a parent night. For the first four years of his life, I was constantly comparing my son to kids around him. I still find myself doing this from time to time but I’m getting better. Every time I catch myself comparing him to others, I now think of this sign.

I’ve also been thinking about this in the context of my students. It’s very easy for all of us to compare students to their classmates rather than see them as individuals on their own unique paths, which can hurt our students. Early in my career, I taught a grade 11 math student who was a very bright math student but wasn’t at the top of her class mark-wise. Years later I found out she graduated with a Bachelor of Mathematics from the University of Waterloo, specializing in Pure Math. I remember being surprised by this, thinking, “she was good, but not among the top 10 in her grade”. After speaking with her parents (I taught her younger siblings also), they said one day it all “clicked” and she fell in love with the subject material. I learned a valuable lesson that day and I’m a better teacher today because of it, although I’m still far from where I need to be.

Does anyone else have a story like this? Do you have tips that have helped you to not compare students? Please share your stories/wisdom in the comments.

I’ll leave you with a quote I found that resonated with me:

“There’s no comparison between the sun and moon. They both shine when it’s their time.” Unknown Author

 

References:

Children Are Like Popcorn: Why Comparison Is The Thief of Joy

 

 

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About Michael Moore

I have taught senior mathematics at Hillfield Strathallan College for 10 years and I'm currently the Subject Coordinator for the Mathematics and Computer Science department.
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3 Responses to Not All Students “POP” at the Same Time

  1. Dan Davies says:

    Hi Sir!
    I really enjoyed reading your post! I can absolutely understand and relate to this scenario. Throughout my youth I was never the best hockey player in my area but worked hard at it and one year before heading to university everything clicked and led me to where I am now. Knowing what I know now, I would much rather be a late popping kernel because I know the frustration that comes with it and the work it takes to pop.

  2. Esther Lee says:

    Ah yes, this resonated “It’s very easy for all of us to compare students to their classmates rather than see them as individuals on their own unique paths, which can hurt our students.” I’m a big believer in setting high expectations across the board. But, holding high expectations doesn’t mean we use the perceived strengths (or weaknesses) of our students against each other. Great reminder that we need to know each of our students, because I think that relationship building is what allows us to keep one another accountable in the end. Thanks for sharing @mmoore !

  3. I see / watch this pattern of behaviour play out each school year. I think it speaks to a human tendency to want to find security and reassurance in patterns. When I can compare my child to others I have some sort of benchmark to understand (feel good or bad) about their development. The problem with this is that development while measurable is personalized and unique to the individual. I think as schools we have even more work to do building this mindset in our students and parents. They are hardwired to undervalue their development and overvalue that of others.

    @jfroggett
    @mrand
    @vsanto
    @beaton
    @dlumsden

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