It Would Be Funny…If It Weren’t So True

My son recently sent me this comic and it caused me both to laugh and also to think, “Oh too true.”

education comic

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this comic is worth at least a blog post. As educators, we can tend to think all students at similar abilities by being in the same grade or same course. And limited types of assessment only intensify the situation. We would like to think otherwise, but I read the attached illustration and thought “Ouch.”

The truth is that each of our students is created individually with unique skills, passions, and abilities. But not each one is skilled at “climbing the tree.” And so assessment determines who are not the “tree climbers” while the “non-tree climbers” get discouraged and disengage.

The quote included with this graphic has been attributed to Albert Einstein. You know, every student, uniquely created by God, has “genius” that just needs to be uncovered and cultivated. But the genius may not look like climbing a tree – and we have to not only be good with that but must facilitate multiple opportunities and varieties of engaging activities and ¬†assessments that differentiate multiple types of genius.

We ourselves, as facilitators of the genius, cannot pigeon-hole what “gifts and talents” have to look like. The world needs a thousand different types of genius.


14 thoughts on “It Would Be Funny…If It Weren’t So True

  1. So true! As I teach I try to find the “genius” in each student but the need for assessment techniques is high. Some students can only show their genius in certain ways–not the way of the rest of the group. So glad God made us all differently and reminds me to find the way to assess mastery of materials in a way that all my students can demonstrate their genius!

    • Thanks for the good insights, Vicki. I believe our students, especially this Gen iY group, desire those in their lives who act as a compass and a guide AND know how to reach that student as an individual. I think it comes down to we as teachers having our tool belts full of tools that allow us multiple ways to assess. That is one reason why I am such a big proponent of reading research-based texts. We need new ideas in our head! Thanks for commenting!

  2. Some good thoughts, Vicki. And as you stated, it is critical that we are finding opportunities of mastery that allow for multiple ways of showing that “genius.” I don’t know about you, but I tend to fall into ruts easily, especially in education, and come to conclusions that are not necessarily accurate. Thanks for commenting on this post!

  3. Any suggestions for how to correct the problem? The bigger problem I see is that we live in a “tree climbing” world.

    • A good question, guys, and I will answer it similarly to another comment I had with the same type of question. This topic overall has been ascribed to standardized testing in some other posts and that is not what I am addressing. My thoughts were more along the line of how “the classroom” can become so sterile because we as educators fall into ruts and have very limiting assessments in the course of a semester. You know, the test and quiz. One of my sources for this topic is Maryellen Weimer and her book Learner Centered Teaching. I apologize if the post seemed half-written as my goal was more to prompt high-level thought in doing something about the details of the problem.

      So, based on the context in which I am writing, my solution does not involve more funding, more resources, or more time. It is looking at the class more intentionally and more strategically with three questions: 1) what are the big ideas and goals for my class that I want to influence my students with years after the course is over? 2) how would my students go about showing me the extent to which they mastered my goals for the class? and 3) what, then, would we need to do each day to properly prepare my students for those milestones that I have set up?

      My urging is that teachers think through how to make certain that their students “get it” and not just be sure all of the content happens. Sure, content is important, but if I am not teaching my students how to interpret that content and create meaningful conclusions that change their thinking, then what is the purpose? For me, the monkey and the tree comic can illustrate how limited our scope is on assessment. I tell my students there are MULTIPLE ways for them to be successful in my class because I know that one size assessment does not fit all. And so I use discussion, group work, modeling, reflective writing, creating videos, reading, interviewing, as well as the common test and quiz. Not all of these are used in every class, but I believe every teacher should be equipped with a tool belt FULL of meaningful ways to engage their students to create change. All of the aforementioned tools are all forms of assessment. I need to realize my class has not only the tree-climbing monkeys, but elephants, dogs, seals, and penguins (and this is no labeling of my awesome students – just borrowing from the comic). We live in a connecting society, not purely an information society. We still teach as if we live in the Industrial Revolution, producing students to go back into the factories…and it is working great, except…we no longer live in that age. Needs have changed. For a great reading on this, see the free download by Seth Godin – Stop Stealing Dreams.

      Pardon my ramblings, but your question deserves a good answer. These ideas do not solve all of the problems, but it is helping me to treat my students as unique with unique giftedness, always pushing them to their unique calling. Thanks for the comments!

  4. Amen! I whole heartedly agree. I myself thought that I was stupid because I was lifing in a “tree climbing” world for the majority of my life. However I was not completly discouraged because there were few classes and teachers that I found that I really excelled in and I knew that there was still something that I could do with my life. With the strengh that God gave me I know now that the only thing that matters is proclaming his word and that is the only thing that I want to do for the rest of my life.
    Alex T & Josh P are right however; how can we correct the problem? Because not all students are as privlidged to come up with the same conclusion that I did, and they just give up and they do not do anything with their life when they could have done so much. Everyone IS a “genius” for God does not create junk.

    • Thanks for your comments, Annie, and I am glad you had teachers early on who helped you see yourself accurately and what your passions were. Regarding your question, read my response to Alex and Josh and see if that makes sense. If not, get with me in class. Would love to chat more about it.

  5. As I read this comment, I thought “Ouch” too! It’s really interesting how this is how we see assessment most times. We as educators should really broaden our horizons on assessment and recognize that they’re are many different types of geniuses in our classrooms.

    • As a teacher of high school math, I find I have many students who despise the subject and only take it because it is required. Motivating them is always an exciting challenge, but so is assessment. I have found ways to check their progress by going to the board or doing group work, but to be certain of mastery on an individual basis is trickier to do while accommodating various learning styles. Any ideas?

    • I agree with your thoughts, Lexie. But it takes intentional effort to read and study up on ideas that are research-based and that are proven to work in the classroom. To be that type of teacher is difficult but well worth the efforts!

  6. I really liked this because it is so true. I would add that as students we face expectations that possibly stem from many factors including society, parents, teachers, and peers. Pressure comes from this feeling that I need to do more, and what I am doing is not enough. So, when we see failing grades, we think something is wrong that I need to correct because we can visibly see whether or not we have been successful. When we cannot “see” our success or failures we mitigate the value of such an activity. An example could include simply taking time to just be reflective and think which is highly valuable, but because we do not see some form of immediate value stem from that we do not value it as highly. Maybe another part of the equation is that not all but many parents ask their children how are your grades not what have you been learning. So do we go to school to earn good grades or to learn? What does our society say? What do our parents and teachers tell us? Students will continue to measure success and failures according to what those around tell them to measure it on. So, if we believe that “genius” lies in all people in various forms then we need to not only incorporate differing activities for students to have various opportunities to express their “genius”, but also re-evaluate how we communicate how success and failures are defined.

    • I really liked what you had to say, Amy. It is so true that success is often measured by others’ expectations of us. I think it would be safe to say that we would like success in school to be measured by learning. But then the tough part comes when we have to evaluate the learning that has taken place.

    • Thanks for commenting Amy – some good thoughts above. It is true that we are measuring success and failures according to what those around them tell them to measure it on. But it does not mean that we cannot be looking at our students as individuals who have individual needs. It is a paradigm shift for sure because of tradition or thinking too narrowly about assessment. My challenge is to strategically and intentionally think differently.

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