Please read this story this summer! It is a success story of amazing proportion and is a fantastic read. I highly encourage you to take 5 minutes to read the whole article… but if you absolutely do not have time, below is a short summary.
Paloma Noyola Bueno is growing up on the edge of a garbage dump, living in poverty with 7 siblings and a father dying of cancer. She is an intelligent girl who followed along with her classmates as teachers handed out government prescribed curriculum. She always did well but never stood out or excelled until 5th grade. Finally, Paloma landed in a classroom with a teacher who was bored to death with the curriculum and knew the students were too.
Sergio Correa became a teacher to change lives, having grown up in the same town next to the same garbage dump. He wanted to help kids lead a different life. And so the journey began. . . Sergio started researching some of the “new” philosophies based primarily on what he had read about the work of Sugata Mitra. The difference. . . Sergio had no technology in his classroom for his students. Instead, Sergio researched at home, brought ideas to his students and then got out of the way. He really did very little (you know I like to ask: who works hardest in your classroom?). Contrary to the training he had received, he let the students ponder and discuss and debate and struggle as they worked to explore concepts and build a consensus before presenting the right answer to him. Sergio noticed that for nearly every problem he proposed, Paloma jotted down the answer within a few minutes and quietly observed her classmates discussion, occasionally adding to it. When asked why she had never expressed an interest in math, Paloma indicated that she had never before found it as interesting as she did now.
Sergio continued through the year with his “radical” new teaching method and it came time for the government mandated standardized testing. Historically, the students in the small school next to the dump had not done well on the standardized test and Sergio had no idea how they would do this year. When the results were finally published, it turned out that Sergio’s students had made vast improvements over previous years. Ten of his students scored in the 99.99th percentile and one student had the highest math score, not just in the district but in the entire country of Mexico.
The part I like most about this story is that Sergio let go of control, tried something new, and did not limit his students to his own understanding. He asked them to think- not just remember. I am sure this was a scary proposition for him especially considering he would also be evaluated by how his students performed. He took a chance and let the students do the work. Thank you, Sergio, for inspiring me! Read the whole story here.