My boy Patrick Higgins tagged me a few days back with a new and interesting meme designed to get participants to outline their core beliefs about teaching and learning. Here’s how Patrick describes it on his site:

Barry Bachenheimer started this on a whim today, and tagged me with it to get it going. Most memes have very definitive rules for passing along or posting certain material, but Barry has given this one some really free “legs.” It’s description is simple:

National Public Radio does a piece called “This We Believe” where individuals share essays they have written that enumerates their philosophies. With this concept in mind in terms of curriculum ideas, (with apologies to the National Middle School Association and National Public Radio), “This I Believe.”

I’m going to tackle this in the style of the NPR “This I Believe” essays—-300-500 word pieces that teach lessons through stories.  So here we go:

Middle school dances are remarkable events to witness, aren’t they? 

Each one inevitably begins with a wave of energy and excitement that is impossible to deny.  Boys and girls—who’ve gussied up for the first time all day, covered in hair product, cheap cologne and makeup—rush through the front doors in groups of two or three. 

Confidence levels range all over the board.  Those with an inflated view of themselves charge onto the dance floor with abandon, throwing their bodies around in gyrations that are barely appropriate.  They seem to scream, “Look at me—-and look at what I’ve learned.  Aren’t you impressed?”

Most of the time, their peers are simply embarrassed—-or afraid—or a little of both!

Others take a more cautious approach to the dance floor—-hugging the bleachers, seeking out friends, playing tag, sitting against the walls.  They drink a thousand Cokes and eat more candy than any one parent could possibly approve of, seeing the snack bar as a safety blanket.  While they understand that dances are, in some ways, about boys and girls and all that mushy stuff, they’re not quite ready to actually think about asking someone to dance. 

They seek out favorite teachers for friendly hugs, looking for reassurance in often painfully uncomfortable situations.  It’s easier, after all, to tell jokes with Mr. Ferriter than it is to dodge that overly-interested classmate that seems intent on making this night memorable. They watch carefully, picking up tips, trying out strategies and slowly starting to figure out what’s hot and what’s not “with the other sex.” 

Over time, tepid attempts at boy-friend-ness and girl-friend-ness begin with awkward hand-holds and quick glances.  Hiding behind incessantly blasting pop music and a thin cover of darkness interrupted only by flashing strobe lights and random screams, conversations are shared and smiles are exchanged—at least until the assistant principal flashes the gym lights on, ruining a beautiful moment!

I’ve learned a lot about teaching and learning at middle school dances.  Perhaps most importantly, I’ve realized that “the required curriculum” doesn’t look the same to every kid sitting in my classroom.  Some will dive in to any topic, rushing ahead and full of confidence like a macarena star in gym class.

Others will move deliberately—-and struggle with confidence at times.  Most will need constant opportunities to quietly observe and to practice before they’ll be brave enough to fully master something new—and few will ever be in the same place at the same time.   

Without flexibility—-and a caring teacher who embraces the unique-ness in every child—-learning will be simply impossible.

This, I believe.

Now, to tag a few digital friends—a few who are just beginning their blogs and a few who are old pros—-to see what it is that they believe in.  I hereby pass the meme mantle on to:

Paul Cancellieri at Scripted Spontaneity

Patrick Woessner at Technology in the Middle

Art at View from Room 125

Anthony Cody at The Spiral Notebook

Jabiz Raisdana at The Intrepid Teacher (Who I miss hearing from!)

And thanks for the tag, Patrick.  While I didn’t think I was going to jump in this chain, I really enjoyed the opportunity to write creatively for awhile!

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