It's true. I can't deadlift as much as Thor.
Below, please find photographic evidence. If you look hard, you'll find differences in our physiques.
In every single school I've visited, I've yet to find a teacher who doesn't struggle with the RANGE of students we teach. Urban or rural, affluent or free/reduced lunch, remedial or gifted — no matter the label, we've got learners coming to us with different degrees of preparedness, ability, willingness, and so on.
It's very challenging.
Thankfully, there are two ideas from the science of learning that really help:
- First, learners grow through the exertion of good effort on good exercises.
- Second, mental effort is a limited resource.
So, the shirtless Hemsworth photo, Dave? Can we — why?
This brings me back to Chris Hemsworth and me — twins separated at birth. Even though one MAY BE stronger than the other, the above principles apply to both of us:
- We can both grow stronger through good effort applied to the right exercises.
- Neither of us is capable of infinite effort in a gym session. In other words, physical effort is a limited resource — even if you're Chris Hemsworth with biceps as big as DSJ.
This twin principle — that effort is both productive and finite — is central to the first module of the Principles of Learning Course. In wide-ranging classes like the ones you and I teach, I find solace and clarity in the idea that no matter how far ahead or behind a student is on a given metric, they:
- Can improve through good effort at good work.
- Can only do so much effortful improvement in a day.
This is hugely motivating to me. It means that each day matters greatly. To blow a lesson off is to blow off a precious opportunity to learn. It's to skip a trip to the gym. We can't just click play on a movie and then work doubly hard tomorrow in class to make up for a lackluster few days. That's like me thinking I can make up for my lack of time in the gym by lifting weights 24/7 all February.
I CAN'T do that because my effort is finite. Today, I'm capable of only so much of it. I've got to invest that well, and then come back tomorrow and do the same, and so on. Over time, I'll basically become a clone of Chris Hemsworth.
What to take away
Three important ideas:
- All students can improve through good effort at good work.
- Effort is a limited resource — may we steward it well!
- Because of these realities, each lesson matters a lot.
- (Just like each trip to the gym for Chris Hemsworth.)
I hope these help you in your classroom as much as they do me in mine.