Friday, March 23, 2012

Third Grade Challenge Program from the Perspective of a School District of Janesville Graduate

Today's guest blogger is Elisha Horner, a Parker High School Graduate (2007)

Part of the purpose of the challenge program is to teach students to challenge themselves, and to promote the development of skills that the students already have. In my mind, it makes sense that we would want to catch the kids at a young age, so that the challenge teachers do not have to "reteach" children to challenge themselves. One of the hardest adjustments for me in joining the challenge program was that (while I had a deep love and passion for learning) it had always come easily to me. I had naturally excelled in my classes, rarely having to push myself to do better because, in comparison to my classmates, I was ahead of the game.

I remember a “timed” math game we were given in 3rd grade, where each student had their own rocket ship and as they completed a set of math questions within the time bracket, their ship would move to the next planet. As a student progressed, the "levels" became increasingly more difficult. Once a student completed all of the levels, they went around again, but with less time and more difficult numbers. I remember lapping almost all of the students in my class. I don't write this to brag about my third grade math skills, but to prove a point. I knew that I excelled in math. I also found the problems that we were doing to be easy; therefore, I did not need to challenge or push myself. In many ways, I coasted--something I can see now, but didn't realize as an elementary school student.

Once I joined the challenge program, I had already learned skills of disorganization, procrastination and laziness. Obviously, I do need to take responsibility for this; however, I do see the benefit of joining a challenge program---of being challenged---before those types of behaviors can become habits. Looking back, I can see numerous of my classmates who likewise struggled in this way. They are peers who struggled to challenge themselves, to push harder and to have ambition.

As educators, isn't it our position to help kids to be the best they can be? By creating a program that reaches out to younger students, we help them to build these characteristics, to develop a desire to be challenged and to ambitiously seek out those challenges. In my opinion, adding a third grade challenge program can only benefit the students--and that is precisely what the School District of Janesville is about.


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  2. "in my mind, it makes sense that we would want to catch the kids at a young age, so that the challenge teachers do not have to "reteach" children to challenge themselves."
    I agree with this statement, Elisha. Honestly, as a special educator, I am all for keeping students within the classroom as much as possible, giving each classroom a diverse population of students with a range of abilities, because let's face it: that's the reality of the world. I also love to see a student who excels in math or reading learn the skills of compassion and teaching when they help one of my students, and for them to see that every person learns differently. However, as a first grade student, I remember excelling, especially in my spelling lists, and being given the opportunity to spell third grade words instead. I also got to be in an advanced reading group in fourth grade. But that was honestly the extent to which I was "challenged." How far does that really take a child? Being in the schools, I can see how incredibly difficult it is to provide for those students that not only understand things right away, but can take it to the next level. I have also seen some interesting behaviors that result from a student not being challenged to reach their potential. I like the idea of a challenge program that will hopefully keep students away from the many habits and behaviors that can result from a person not being challenged - "procrastination, laziness, disorganization", passivity, disruptive behavior, etc. - and teach them the skills they need to utilize their academic intelligence. At the same time, my hope is to teach ALL students to push themselves to their full potential, which I know is the feeling of the teachers I have worked with in the Janesville School District. Either way, I believe a challenge program would be a great asset to the school district in Janesville!


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