I have been at my “new school” for just over a year. Returning this September was a homecoming. The feeling in my classroom has changed—from tentative to more certain. Building trust is a slow process. The important thing is to show up every day and start again. For most of my students, trust is a long rope bridge, travelled cautiously. And hold on tight—the whole damn thing could still collapse and leave you dangling.
We’ve been studying chemistry in science. Everything is new to them, unbelievable. “Are you telling me,” says one student, “that everything in the universe is made from just THAT?” (He is pointing at the periodic table of the elements.) They don’t believe it. That can’t be true. “EVERYTHING?”
They are equally wary of other supposed truths. Like how many electrons an element ALWAYS has. Like how an element will ALWAYS bond in certain ways. “That plus that will always make that,” says a student skeptically. He’ll entertain the possibility, but he’s not going to believe it just yet.
Others have embraced the reassuring predictability of science. There is order. There are immutable realities. Six students requested a copy of the element fact cards, a resource I found at Ellen J. McHenry’s site (a fabulous science resource). These cards led one of my students to design his own cards, cards of elements yet to be discovered. This student (autistic, brilliant, naïve, delightful) created this element in my honour. My colleagues agree that the likeness—and descriptors–are uncanny.