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What about Lisa?

jayoder
Community Advocate
Community Advocate
9 28 1,467

As I reflect on the mixed reactions of my colleagues to the influx of technology in our schools, I realize there is a running trend that causes me concern. We as educators seem to care so much about safeguarding our classes, lessons and quizzes from the Bart Simpsons of the world that we forget to nurture Lisa. What about Lisa? Doesn't she deserve the ability to learn at her own pace? Isn't she able to multitask? Doesn't she always turn things in on time? Why are we being so rigid on how we manage the students in our classroom and our expectations of them. Why do we immediately dismiss new innovative lessons based on the fear of cheating or other nefarious acts.

One reason I believe is the chasm between the learners of yesteryear and the learners of today is so substantial now that there is a lack of understanding of how life occurs to the students of today. Teachers often teach based on their own learning experiences in school and we are now at such a divide with the ubiquity of technology and social media that even the process of thinking is different for our students than for most of us educators. Now I am not suggesting that we let students do whatever suits their fancy, moderation of things like screen time is a must! But maybe we should spend less time trying to lock up every loophole and avoiding technology instead we should be breaking the glass ceilings we have created by using templates from the 20th Century to dictate the 21st Century classroom. Just because we fear the world of Wall-E doesn't mean we should condemn our students to a life of the Flintstones. Bart will always be Bart...finding ways to get under your skin, cheat or even Snapchat during your lessons. Why should Lisa suffer for his negligence? Karma will get him, but in the meantime have we spent too much time setting restrictions and ignoring innovation that we have inadvertently killed Lisa's creativity? 

290426_Horshack.jpgSo the next time you find yourself worrying about locking the proverbial vault on a quiz or project remember that there will always be a Bart, a Danny Ocean or even a Horshack...but let's not forget that our purpose as educators isn't to exploit the negative behaviors, but the research shows that success in classroom lies in the positive reinforcement that we give to the Lisa like behavior, letting all others know that the culture in our classroom nurtures the ability that we all possess to be life long learners. And perhaps by the end of the semester, year, or much much later Bart will reorient his wayward compass ultimately finding that his happiness isn't in the antics he gets away with, but in finding his purpose through demonstrations of effort and integrity.

28 Comments
laurakgibbs
Surveyor

I knew I would like this blog post as soon as I saw the title,  @jayoder ‌! Thinking about Lisa and Bart and, even more challenging, thinking about them in the same classroom at the same time, shows how challenging it is to be a teacher: Lisas and Barts want different things, they need different things... and one of the reasons I like teaching  is that I can be offering really different experiences for those different students. And I've found that instead of trying to manage students, just doesn't work very well, at least not for me... but opening things up and putting the emphasis on CREATIVITY gives both the students and me the freedom we need to figure out how to be doing good work together. How each individual student works might be really different and what they need from me might be really different, but while we are all working together on creating new things, we end up with stuff to be proud of, stuff that we can share with each other. I literally just a few minutes got an email from a student who is really having fun coming up with her creative project, so I'll paste it in here: yay for creativity! One thing Lisa and Bart both have in common is that they are both creative... because EVERYBODY is creative. 🙂

screenshot of student email

jayoder
Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Wow! laurakgibbs‌! This whole week I've been thinking about this...the thing that strikes me the most is the teachers who are guilty of this have only the best intentions and honestly have no idea the damage they are doing by holding on to these archaic values. 

laurakgibbs
Surveyor

Very true about intentions: trying to control things springs from a "I don't want anything to go wrong" impulse... but the controlling is actually even more wrong, especially in the long run. Control and compliance: these are not the friends of real learning IMO.

Have you seen Ira Socol's new book Timeless Learning? I've never felt so connected to a book on teaching and learning before. I need to find some time to write up notes. It's fabulous!

Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools: Ira David S...

P.S. stefaniesanders‌ I just noticed that on-line dropped out of my comment there. This is a seriously persistent little Internet gremlin! I really hope they will figure that out and get it fixed. What on earth could be causing it...?

waaaseee
Learner II

This is a splendid thought-piece  @jayoder ‌! I really like how you've put a face to both end of the spectrums: Lisa and Bart. As a technologist I think a lot about this Lisa/Bart spectrum and, it always brings me to this concept of Pareto Optimality: where one cannot be made better off without making another worse off, that is, no better trade off can be made. I've observed that most technologies are usually 'single-purpose' oriented and they try to fit every student in this one-mould. What I am trying to say is: the point you made in this post is something not only the educators but technologists need to be mind-ful too. 

I'm curious as to what thoughts you might have on what is the best way to allocate an educator's time on a per student basis? Should it be equal for all, most for student's who require it more (Bart would get most) or most for student's who deserve it more (Lisa would get most)?

jayoder
Community Advocate
Community Advocate

No I have not, but I need to! I was actually thinking of starting a Virtual Book club with my faculty to get them using Canvas in more non threatening ways...maybe this is our first book!!! Thank you so much! 

laurakgibbs
Surveyor

I had known Ira for many years at Twitter and was such an admirer, and reading this book, I realize that what they were accomplishing was even bigger than what I had realized from hearing bits and pieces over the years. SO INSPIRING.

laurakgibbs
Surveyor

SO TRUE, waaaseee‌! I have a good anecdote I can share in that regard: my last year of teaching in the classroom was 2000, and there was a student in the Latin class I taught that semester who was a genius student but who really hated the class. He filled out the end of course evaluation and talked to me about it also so I was not blindsided; he was very negative about the class because he said I spent all my time on the students who didn't know Latin and didn't care, while good students like him were the ones who deserved my attention. And yeah, I could see why he would say that; it was a third-semester language class that students were taking to fulfill a graduation requirement, and most of them were taking Latin because it did not require actual speaking like living languages -- not because they actually wanted to learn Latin for any reason. 

So, here's the cool thing: that same student was still around to take my on-line classes when I started teaching those; he took what was the second iteration of Myth-Folklore and the first iteration of Indian Epics... and he loved both classes. In the on-line class, he got one-on-one attention from me to work on his writing and, even better, he was able to be something like a teacher for the other students who loved his work and were able to share their admiration with him while also giving him feedback to become an even better writer just as they were learning important things about writing from the wonderful stories he wrote and shared.

Night and day difference. That really meant a lot to me as a teacher, since he was the only student who could actually compare my classroom and on-line classes.

Now, I'm sure that there are teachers who are able to manage that kind of individualized, differentiated, peer responsive class in a classroom.

I could not; I had not idea what to do about that problem in the classroom.

But on-line, it all comes naturally, at least in the way I design my courses.

It's why I would be lost if you put me back in a classroom. I would try to design courses according to the same principles I use on-line but, honestly, I have no idea how I would do that really. It would take me a long time to figure out by trial and error I suppose!

On-line, though, from the very first semester my classes worked really well, as that student was able to tell me (and I knew he would be honest about that because he was not shy to criticize my classroom class!).

[I'm typing on-line with the hyphen because it is important to this comment, and the Jive editor is going to make it disappear otherwise...[

jayoder
Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Thanks waaaseee  for your thought provoking response! I personally think that Project Based Learning is the way to go, because that allows the teacher to get out of the way and the students get ability to take control, then the students who need to seek out the teacher (Bart or Lisa) have them available as they see fit OR what would be even better is to find a way that Lisa can use her aptitude and abilities to help Bart. Thus teaching them both how to collaborate and learn from one another, because they each surely have something to teach the other!

 

One of the reasons I like Canvas is that it gets out of the way and allows the users creativity to run wild. This is also what is daunting about it for a lot of my colleagues...I compare it to the restaurant that has a 10 page menu...There are just too many choices...they don't know where to start. Also, there is the issue of the items like the Shrimp Scampi...it sounds appetizing, but how often do they make it, is it fresh and good to eat; is it worth spending 1 of my 3 meals on for the day? (i.e. ePortfolios, Discussion Boards would be the menu items that seem to not get the same love as the other menu items in the Canvas restaurant . They are just considered classics and their name alone is worth putting on the menu!)

 

In any event I believe each student deserves the teacher's attention, but sometimes Bart is being Bart because he is not getting one of his basic needs met (Maslow's hierarchy), so I as the teacher try to make my classroom a safe place so that we can get to learning and they can save the antics for the lunch room or recess!

laurakgibbs
Surveyor

Just a quick note that Timeless Learning is all about the practice and spirit of PBL/MakerMovement etc. 🙂

Bobby2
Community Coach
Community Coach

Yes, yes, yes to all of this loveliness. 

290488_tenor.gif

I LOVE that moment when I look at my class with everyone engaged in something different, drama,  projects, arty things... All purposeful. It takes some scaffolding to get them there and a bit of bravery to 'let it go' but the feedback from students and parents is always so positive. It might look a bit chaotic if you walked in to the classroom, but you guys would get it! And yes, this is Grade 3! 

Thanks  @jayoder  for getting the ball rolling, and the rest of you for sharing your wisdom and experience. 

Let's hear it for Lisa... and Bart. 

waaaseee
Learner II

I like how you talk about students teaching students as a valuable activity, and the concept of an LMS as a restaurant. With respect to Lisa teaching Bart, how often do you see it happen in your class? 

waaaseee
Learner II

I've noticed you hyphenating on-line and your test blog about it..let me try writing ..can you read me Jive? I'm writing  ..

waaaseee
Learner II

It's true!! Omg Jive's just lost its mojo..and a very interesting story... on-line (ugh) education does it make a lot of things happen which wouldn't happen in an offline setting...I've got the same feeling about remote work vs office work...I noticed you said the first 'iteration' of your course..how often do you iterate your courses? And how do you know about what to iterate? 

jayoder
Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Its all about nurturing a class from minute 1. I take the first marking period to just get to know the kids and their idiosyncrasies. Then I change seats the 2nd quarter and I put the desks in groups with about 6 kids per group. 2 Lisas 2 Mid rangers and 2 Barts...then I give them projects to complete. And I reinforce the teamwork by giving points for most improved group quiz average, HW average etc. And at times like siblings there is a lot of conflict as they feel each other out, but then every once in a while you see them begin to jump in and help each other...its sometime's like catching a glimpse of a shooting star...well worth the wait and ever so slight, but very powerful! Once the Barts realize they too have something valuable to offer that is when it gets real good! Smiley Happy

waaaseee
Learner II

Do you mind sharing what subjects you teach? Also, are Barts usually creative people like musicians or artists? :smileysilly:

jayoder
Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Latin and Spanish at a public high school! They can be artists, musicians or they just don't know what they are yet...

waaaseee
Learner II

And how many Barts are there per class and how many Lisas?

Bobby2
Community Coach
Community Coach

You make a good point waaaseee.

So many Lisas hiding at the back. 

waaaseee
Learner II

It's a curious thing no  @Bobby2 ? I've also seen people like Lisa are shy as well...but is it safe to say that in a class of 30 there are 3-5 Lisas (exceptional motivated learners) and 2-3 Barts (only attending the class physically not mentally)? I've observed those numbers in my own K-12 days as a student..I'm curious what  @jayoder has noticed in his classes..what about yourself?

Bobby2
Community Coach
Community Coach

Interesting observation waaaseee.

I've probably noticed a similar average of Barts and Lisas over the years. 

Also noticed a few in the making, brewing in the middle. With a little nurturing what will happen to Maggie? 

290708_magi.jfif

jayoder
Community Advocate
Community Advocate

I was reading a book laurakgibbs‌ recently recommended today,Timeless Learning , and it said in the foreword

"Each and every child has something that is worth celebrating and developing! Each and ever child has a dream that is worth realizing. Each and every child has unique needs that we can help meet." (xv)

So the number of Barts and Lisas isn't as relevant...but the skill I have cherished is the ability to read the kids and know what kind of stimulus I needed to give them collectively or individually to get the result/objective of my lesson. And when you consider the variables in that hormonal equation on any given day in the lunar cycle (ha ha) its like playing a new game of chess every 45 minutes and the pieces constantly morph...one day a student may act like a queen, king or bishop and on other days a knight or a pawn!  Curating and nurturing a safe space for all the uniqueness is what makes a classroom a magical place! 

laurakgibbs
Surveyor

Yay for Timeless Learning!!! 🙂

kmeeusen
Community Coach
Community Coach

Thank you for starting this,  @jayoder !

You touched on something I am currently in the midst of. I took my Granddaughter out of her public high school, because it is a robot factory, and if a partially constructed robot falls off the assembly line, they are simply swept into the dustbin. I see too much of this in education at all levels where so many systems are designed/deployed to work with/for the Lisas, and the Barts are just a source of income for the school and quickly relegated to a dustbin of some kind when they can't or won't become Lisa.

One of the promises of    education was the potential to provide the best learning opportunities to both the Lisas and Barts, and everyone in between. Unfortunately, that promise has not been achieved except in isolated examples limited to a few teachers, a few schools, a few districts or a few areas! Very sad, because the technology can support the realization of this promise. What keeps this promise from being realized is that teachers are still teachers, schools are still schools, districts are still districts, and departments of education are still.....well, you get the point.

These are individual and systems habits that were long in their birth and development, and will be long in their demise. As individuals, we can look to the "best practices" for our own practice,  and do what we can to hasten the learning and evolution of both individuals and the systems they live in.

As for myself: I practice the best things I've learned in my own  classrooms, I work within my school to evolve our faculty and school practices, I work at the state level to evolve our state CTC system; and, I refuse to give another dollar of taxpayer money to my Granddaughter's high school to keep her seat warm on the conveyor belt!

Oh yeah, I also make sure Lisa gets as much attention as Bart - she could grow to achieve great things because I do!

Kelley

jayoder
Community Advocate
Community Advocate

I myself went to 3 HS my junior year...like some new age Goldilocks and the 3 Schools! I am committed to making sure no kid has to fight as hard as I did just to get an education! 

jacobsc
Explorer II

Thank you so much for this very timely post!!!  We are having similar conversations in our district and I find myself saying these same things!  Appreciate you bringing to the public level!

jayoder
Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Thanks  @jacobsc ‌, I'm reading Timeless Learning right now based on a comment from above and it really is striking a chord in terms of how we develop lessons so that students can see their value. Bart and Lisa have value and I just worry that somehow we aren't doing all we can to make sure they both get to know their worth. I don't want either of them to feel like they need to fit a particular mold. This system we inherited as educators has some work to do...But it looks like all of us in this comment chain are up to the challenge! Smiley Happy

jayoder
Community Advocate
Community Advocate

I'm loving the book, Its so rich and I'm just getting started! I'm savoring each paragraph like a bite of food I  might chew for 5 minutes before moving on! Smiley Happy

laurakgibbs
Surveyor

It was really exciting for me because I've known Ira for years , but I had no idea how deep AND wide-ranging their work was. SO INSPIRING. 🙂