Let’s Have An Important Conversation — Entry Four
“Be A Little More Principal Feeny.”
If you haven’t noticed, our important conversation has not introduced any revolutionary ideas, innovative technology interventions, or creative instructional strategies. While they will be covered eventually, the solution to educating our ‘forgotten students’ is rather simple, just be Mr. Feeny.
For those who do not know, Mr. Feeny might be the best fictional educator in the past thirty years. If you try to tell me Mr. Belding is…we need to have some words after you are done reading this..
Mr. Feeny was a teacher and principal (later in the series) in the television series Boy Meets World. This series focused on the trials and tribulations of adolescence and lasted for seven years. No matter what happened throughout the series, it always seemed that Mr. Feeny guided everyone to better themselves. He always invested in others and had a strong understanding of the meaning of life.
Mr. Feeny exhibited all of John Hattie’s most effective strategies to create visible learning. Student relationships, student ownership of learning, and mindset were part of Feeny’s daily repertoire. In fact, I would be okay if Hattie’s Visible Learning was retitled..
Stuff Mr. Feeny Does..So Do That
The following entry looks at some of the best life lessons (a collection of ‘mic drops’ if you will..)Mr. Feeny has given and how we can all embody his mindset.
In entry two, we talked about our need to recognize our own bias and perceptions and received a new pair of glasses to view how we approach our ‘forgotten students’. We all would like to think that we don’t need glasses but we will never grow if we don’t try to recognize our limitations.
Furthermore, our ‘forgottens’ can see how we perceive them with complete clarity.
‘Forgottens’ are treated like a statistic. They see, hear, and feel our world and how it gives them no chance. It becomes a self-fulfilled prophecy for them. So they ‘act’ the part.
They become the bad kids that we have all read about and perceive them as.
We try hard to impact these kids but we lose hope and we put the blame on them. “I’ve tried everything, it’s on them.”
So what would Mr. Feeny do? Well.. I imagine Mr. Feeny would tell himself…
‘I’ve tried everything I can think of to reach these kids…but we’ve only begun. It is a marathon, not a race. I will reach these kids.’
Be A Champion
When everyone else has given up, be the one who doesn’t.
Be the annoying one in the teacher’s lounge that is always positive and never willing to degrade our students.
Our ‘forgottens’ have often experienced trauma, limited support, and accept failure as normal. As a result, their behaviors are conditioned to avoid as many bad situations as possible. They often do not trust adults, peers, or any others because they have not been given a reason to.
So how do you combat this? Simple, be their champion. Recognize that it is a marathon and not a sprint. It is going to take time to break down their barriers and believe me… they are really good at pushing others who are trying to develop relationships so they won’t get hurt down the road.
Every day, tell yourself, ‘I’m going to show this challenging student that I care and I will not give up on them.’
I’m going to show them I respect them and value their life and future. Being a champion everyday is extremely difficult but necessary.
However, Mr. Feeny would say that taking the hard road because it impacts students is what a champion would do..this is why we are educators.
Be the champion they never had and no one else is willing to be… no matter how hard it may be..
Just Be Real
Never assume you have it figured out. Never assume that you know what it is like to be an inner city minority student. Never assume that you know better than your student. Just be real with your students.
Over my career, I have developed strong relationships with some of the toughest students imaginable. Students who are gang members, spent time in jail, and other experiences I hope to never have to deal with. On the surface, this student and I could not be any further apart in what we have in common.
So these strong relationships have developed from a simple mindset. I do not start to think I understand their life but I seek to learn and serve them. I treat these students like adults, I try to recognize my own bias, and I try to have honest conversations with them.
Over time, these tough students start to let their guard down when they see I am trying to understand their life and trying to help them. The relationship then starts to blossom.
I am so grateful for these experiences and relationships. It has altered my outlook on life and my purpose.
In other words.. I try to be Mr. Feeny when I develop these relationships. All I know is that I don’t know.. but I want to learn.
Thank You Mr. Feeny
Tell me if this sounds familiar…
‘Working with ‘forgottens’ (or insert your most challenging student’s name) is impossible. We have tried EVERYTHING for many years and have seen minimal progress. We just have to accept that we can’t reach everyone…it is on them now.’
How would Mr. Feeny respond to this?