Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A tale of a struggling learner

I just saw the most inspiring movie and it inspired me in a way that wasn't the focus of the movie. During the summer, several of our theaters show older movies. I took the kids expecting to see a heartwarming story about a dolphin who gets a new tail. Of course I'm talking about the movie Dolphin Tale. However, I left the theater with my mind spinning and the movie challenging (and confirming) my philosophy of teaching. It's a sweet story about a little boy who helps a dolphin that had to have his tail amputated. While it's a very sweet story - what drew me in was the little boy. He struggles with many things in his life, especially with school. He is brilliant with building things with his hands, but he fails at every academic subject. He has to attend summer school to make up for his failed classes. His mom finds out he's been skipping school to work with this dolphin. At first she's outraged, until she sees first hand what her son is doing (and learning!). The conversation that she had with her son's teacher was amazing (I wish I could put the clip in here!) It seriously brought tears to my eyes. How many students do we know like this? They basically struggle with everything we teach! I had an amazing professor once tell me, "If  kids don't learn the way you teach, teach the way they learn!" To see this little boy's progress once he became engaged with hands on, real life experiences, was mind blowing! In grad school, I was challenged with this concept. What do we really need to teach our students? What do they really need to know? Now I know this is some pretty deep thinking for summer, but I challenge you to start thinking about how we can capture and engage these learners that struggle with everything. We need to find their niche and split it wide open with rich experiences for them. I know....but what about the "TEST". The test is there...whether we like it or not, but I think that we can provide these experiences for kids that will eventually lead them down the path of learning those "required skills". Now if you haven't seen this movie, please go watch it! Watch this little boy go from a struggling learner to taking ownership of his learning!

If you have seen the movie here some more info about Winter the dolphin! As for the little boy, it appears he wasn't part of the real story, just Hollywood. (I'm still researching it though!) Never the less, his character inspired me!


  1. Marvelous! We noticed how much our students (boys especially) needed to move last year, so we sang and danced (hand motions, etc.) to learn as much as we could. Today I was discussing this with my 23-year-old son who said, "Yeah, the boys need to move. I hated school...just sitting there all day. I didn't really "get it" until I was 17, doing things hands-on!" 'Nuff said!
    His reaction inspired me to not only add in the song and dance, but show the children our standards and give them a taste of the info they should learn and let them go at it! I pray it works the way I think...but God always handles that end anyway! He's the one who gives me the ideas. Thanks for posting. :)



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  2. Loved your post. Thank you for the reminder! I try my very best to keep your quote in mind (I heard a while back also). We must remember that we teach students not just standards, curriculum, etc... A great sentiment to keep in mind as we think about the upcoming school year and our new kiddos that we will meet in the fall; and don't worry not too deep for summer :)

  3. Sadly, this is one (of the many) reasons why I am leaving the classroom. I'm finding that mandated requirements, or the interpretation of how to meet them, does not support best practices. Sadly, so many children are being left whined because of the expectation to implement traditional teaching methods.

  4. Thank you for your kind comments! Tracy, that makes me very sad! Although our hands seemed tied at times, I think that we need to find ways we can incorporate these enrichment activities. I know at times I get overwhelmed thinking I'm just one person - but if I just focus on the now - I can make little changes that make HUGE differences. Hopefully in the future, the focus of our schools will change and you can return to the classroom.