Keep it in perspective with Five Years Ago Principle

Lunch AnticsThis tip comes in the form of a question that instantly reframes my thinking.  It helps me keep my expectations of students in perspective.  The idea is simple:

What was this person doing five years ago?

Most of us haven’t changed much in the past five years.  For sure, we haven’t undergone the drastic changes that second graders have experienced in the same amount of time.  Those kids learned to speak, read and write.   Those are significant achievements.

The Five Years Ago Principle gives us appreciation for how far our students have come.   It helps us manage our expectations of what we think students should know and be able to do.

Consider the fifth or sixth grader, aged 10-12.  Five years ago, they were just starting kindergarten or first grade.  Since then, we think they should have learned to write complex essays, produce fancy reports, perform pre-algebra, and navigate tricky social relationships.  When I realize that there hasn’t been much time for a fifth-grader to learn these things, I become a little more patient.

When I presented at a national reading association conference, I had dinner with some well-known writers and their editors.  Both of the writers taught high school English, both were frustrated that their students hadn’t read many great works of literature.

I brought up my Five Years Ago Principle and reminded these writers that five years ago, their students were in fourth or fifth grade.  They were still reading Judy Blume and Captain Underpants.  Their students haven’t had the academic ability, maturity, or time to have read all the great works.

The Five Years Ago Principle can help us relate to our colleagues, especially first-year teachers.    A recent college graduate could be only 21 years old.  Five years ago, that person was just getting a driver’s license.  Just thinking of that should make veteran teachers and administrators more patient and nurturing.

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Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jun 14, 2013


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