One of my favorite crazy educators – but the good, ‘go run through a wall after you talk to him’ kind of crazy – Jon Corippo has a lot of interesting ideas. One of the things I’ve chatted with him about over the years is the idea of reps for students. Jon talks about how students will struggle with new structures and ideas to start with. An open ended project that should take half a week? The first time you do it may take two weeks. But get kids reps, get them familiar with structures and how something in your classroom works, and later in the year you’ll get that two week project down to a three day project.
That’s reps. Practice. What are the structures of your classroom that kids have to master? Give them reps and they’ll get better. My wife sees it in her grade six classroom with the Daily 5: students who struggle in September to self-direct through thirty minutes of Daily 5 have no problem with ninety minutes of self-directed Daily 5 come April.
It’s the same with hard conversations we have to have as educators. The first time you deal with something? A student – or a parent – who is furious at you? Yikes. I need a hand. Can I practice the conversation I’m going to have with them with you? The third time? The fifth time? I’ve got this.
I’ve seen this be true as an administrator as well. First fight? Walk me through how we deal with this. It’s easier the next time. Need to find out what a student knows? I WAY overplayed my hand in a conversation earlier this year. Hopefully, I’ll learn from it and do better the next time.
That idea of reps, what Jon talks about with students, holds true for the adults in schools as well. If you’re going to build competence, you need practice. You need to be bad at something in order to reflect and learn to be good.
You need – we all need – reps.