Underestimating is usually never good. From trying to get a loan to gambling, underestimating can leave you in hot water. Often time we even underestimate people then act surprised or impressed when they preform to their ability.

Today I have to admit I have underestimated and now I’m kicking myself for it. You see this  year has been a discipline/classroom management nightmare. I spend more time dealing with problems in that area than ever before. I also have a record number of students per class. Those two issues added together can be a huge problem. Also add in the fact that I have my largest number of IEPs, 504s, and boys (yes that is a factor when you have  over 22 boys in a class of 31, there is a lot of energy being expelled) ever. I also have a record number of failures from kids refusing to do work. So as you can see this year has really challenged me and my teaching (that is a teacher’s nice way of saying it has been pretty bad).

With a year like this I have been leery of trying “out of the box” type stuff.  We have done some group work and some were successful and others not so much. But anything too advanced like PBL type lessons I have shied away from. Until this week. The thing is, I was actually pretty scared about it. Then I panicked even more when I realize this would be during a school “walk-thru.” I even tweeted out my fear:

I went for it anyway. Decided not to take the easy way out. I made sure I gave specific background information, instructions, and my expectations.

Day 1 – excellent. Only 2 groups out of 36 groups of students I had to really push to get busy. Kids were “bottoms up” on the table which I always say is a great measure to how hard they are working and collaborating. Groups did not argue. The best part – they came up with some amazing stuff!!

Day 2 – Same things. Only 2 groups did not finish (yes same 2 as yesterday). My 1st three classes as well as my last class had 100% of students actively engaged.  100%. Now this is a group of kids I have had problems getting to give me anything. 100% were working. Today their finished products were outstanding and even better than yesterday’s work. I had kids asking me about engineering or what kind of degrees would they need to do __. Such great stuff!

So I underestimated my kids. I should have never done that. We should never think the worst of students. Years like this year make it hard not to fall into that, but I feel kinda like a jerk for falling for it. I should have never thought that students could not do something on their grade level. Please don’t make the mistake I did. Take the leap and just try something out of the norm. It may be frustrating or it may be a pleasant surprise.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Debra (@teacherdebra) says:

    Good for you for taking the risk and the leap of faith. I can understand why you might have shied away from this kind of open activity based on your opening statements about behavior and the number of students you have. I feel that many teachers would think exactly like you that due to the numbers or the poor behavior that their students could not do that kind of work and would not even think about it. I have heard teachers say, “I would love to try this or that but not with this group,” so congratulations on your success but also on being a risk taker.

  2. jbolen says:

    I think all teachers, at some point, underestimate their students. This can become especially apparent when we have those rough years with what seems like the worst students ever. I commend you for trying something new, now hopefully this will encourage other teachers to take those risks, especially with their lower-level learners. I know my lower-level learners surprise me everyday! They are always up for a challenge! Thanks for sharing your risk-taking!

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