The possibly two most frustrating and refreshing words in the industry of education are I KNOW. Put together, these words can create a rather powerful sentence. A very short sentence (V.S.S., as my high school English teacher taught me – Thank you, Mrs. Tyner!). This V.S.S. can mean two very different things in the classroom. One, your student actually gets it for once. Two, your student is being a smart alec.
The latter has been my more common experience. However, when a student actually does get it…my world changes.
Today, I administer the Final Exam of the semester. Upon grading these tests, it doesn’t take long to sort out the academic wheat from the chaff. However, though I am forced to organize my students’ English abilities according to the institution’s standard, high scores aren’t always coming from the best attitudes in class. They’re simply coming from the students WHO KNOW.
One of my level 3 students took 2nd place in the Speech Contest this year. The school I currently work at alternates every year between Spelling Bee and Speech Contest, which keeps the events fresh and competition among students even, as not every student is a speller and not every student is a public speaker. His name is Tsung-Han, and I’ve known this kid since he was in Level 1, when I was also his teacher. He did his speech about Legos, and delivered it with so much personality and confidence that other kids in the school were quoting him! Those are the students who get it, and those are the students who make a teacher proud.
Tsung-Hang’s test scores? Low at best. According to the educational standards of Taiwan’s society, they’re low. According to the American school system, he would simply be ranked as an average student. But this kid has gone from misspelling every word to getting a 100% on a spelling quiz. His performance in grammar and vocabulary has surprised even him. I’ve coached him in grammar, in hopes of seeing him rank a little bit higher on the academic ladder. But I didn’t coach him in the gestures and voice inflections and funny noises that put him and and his speech up on top of the performance ladder.
Those talents and his motivation to win came from a heart WHO KNOWS what it takes, WHO KNOWS what is important and who has been told, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Because THAT is what every students should know.
So next time a students says, “Teacher, I know!” ask her exactly what it is she knows.