School of Animals!

I was flicking through blogs looking for some inspiration and I stumbled upon a quote that Janelle Law had posted on her page, “everybody is a genius.but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life beleiving that it is stupid”. This famous Einstein quotation made me think about the following short story that we read in my EPHYC class:

 The Animal School

Once upon a time, the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of a “new world”. So they organized a school. They adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects. The duck was excellent in swimming, in fact better than his instructor, but he made only passing grades in flying and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to stay after school and also drop swimming in order to practice running. This was kept up until his webbed feet were badly worn and he was only average in swimming, so nobody worried about that except the duck. The rabbit started at the top of the class in running, but had a nervous breakdown because of so much make-up work in swimming. The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of from the treetop down. He also developed a “charlie horse” from overexertion and then got a C in climbing and a D in running. The eagle was a problem child and was disciplined severely. In the climbing class he beat all the others to the top of the tree, but insisted on using his own way to get there. At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceedingly well, and also run, climb and fly a little, had the highest average and was valedictorian. The prairie dogs stayed out of school and fought the tax levy because the administration would not add digging and burrowing to the curriculum. They apprenticed their children to a badger and later joined the groundhogs and gophers to start a successful private school.

This story and Einstein’s quote made me think about how importance of knowing the students in your class and their strengths and their weakness. I think that sometimes teachers try so hard to “fulfill the curriculum” and ensure “equity” in the classroom, that student’s strengths are clouded by their weakness. As teachers how can we create a classroom that uses students strengths to improve their area of weakness? As a teacher I want to liberate students and encourage their talents, interests and abilities, while also challenging them to try and improve at their areas of struggle. As a teacher I think it is important that students recognize that it is okay if they are not excellent at everything, and it is okay if they might not succeed at something at first. I think this is where differentiation and adaption’s come into play. Who is in my class? What are their learning needs and what can be done to try and help assist them in their success?

I think that the story of the animal school shows an opposite theory to this. In this fictional school all students were treated like equals but were not reated fairly. Their strengths were not valued because they were expected to perform equally well in all subject areas. The teacher of this school did not alow for students to achieve a task in their own way and put great emphasize on the student’s grades. All of the animals stopped exceeding in their areas of strength because they were forced to put all of their effort in their areas of weakness.

What do you think the role of student’s strengths should be in the classroom? How much emphasize should be put on students area of struggle? Do you think that the Animal School was structures for sucess? 



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