I feel like everyone has a few phrases that just drive them up a wall. On of my Dad's, for instance is, "That's the way it's always been." He can't handle it when people use that as a rationale to do things. I just use that as an example because it's on the blog. I'm sure you can think of things people say that you simply hate. I know most of mine.
When I sat down for a meeting with one of my professors today I didn't expect she'd throw out any of these because she's so lovely, but she said the evil words anyway. I spent a couple hours putting together a hypothetical unit lesson plan for some imaginary students. I thought it was ok. Maybe it needed some tweaking because it was my very first attempt at creating a curriculum, but it met all her requirements. She handed it back to me and said, "This is far too ambitious. I don't think children would be smart enough to understand this." That's one of my phrases. Let's be clear. Children are smart. They don't have any life experience, they are uncoordinated, they lack some higher processing functions, and their language is not as sophisticated as an adult's vocabulary, but they are smart.
Telling me children are stupid says more about you than the kids. If you think that children are stupid then they will behave like little idiots. You can't expect them to know everything, but you can't treat them like imbeciles either. I hear it in swimming lessons. I hear it in education classes. If you tell a child that they can't do something, even non-verbally, they will not do it. If, however, you tell them they can achieve greatness they will. All my five year-olds learn to swim four strokes because I tell them they should. If I can do it they can do it.
My professor thought my expectations were high. They are. We live in a country of standards-based education. If fourth graders are supposed to learn how to compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures then I don't see why I can't teach them that. It's not too ambitious to have expectations. That's what my professor forgot in her special education bubble. Sometimes you are allowed to set a goal that not everyone will reach. Once that goal is set, though, everyone will learn from trying to hit it.
This is where my training from games comes in. A game designer revels in spectacular failures. They make hard boss monsters so that once players kill them they have actually accomplished something. If they can't kill it that's fine. Players know it's possible. That's what I want to do for my little friends. I want to give them big battles and the tools to fight them. I want to always tell children that they are smart and capable. Please. Please don't ever say, "I don't think children would be smart enough to..."