The Duck Test
Everyone knows the well-known humorous saying, "If it looks like a
duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck".
There are many times this type of inductive reasoning can be accurate
and even worthwhile. Police officers should look more carefully at
individuals who acted suspiciously, and have previous records, as suspects to crimes. Similarly, businessmen and women shouldn't enter into a potential deal with someone they don't trust.
However, I feel that this type of reasoning often translates itself
incorrectly into our schools. With our students, if it looked like a duck and quacked like a duck last school year.... it may not be a duck next school year.
All too often we ask previous teachers about which students to watch
out for and what to expect. There is no doubt this is done with good
intentions. Teachers will wonder how can they best reach these difficult
students and proactively try to think of avenues towards success. But
it simply isn't fair.
Our students may not get as much credit
as they deserve. A typical Jewish middle schooler needs to adapt
themselves to 4-8 different teachers with completely different learning
styles, classroom management, and grading systems every day, and
possibly every year. It is not uncommon for a student to thrive with one
teacher and struggle with another with little to no fault to the
teacher or the student!
The teacher-student relationship can be
so diverse and different from class to class and student to student. A
positive relationship between the student and the teacher takes time and
doesn't always develop easily. Sometimes, for certain kids, a few
negative experiences can literally affect their entire year, even if
they occurred accidentally. Other times, in schools with large
teacher/student ratios, certain kids may not receive the attention they
require and act out instead. The list of potential reasons why a certain
student wasn't successful in a particular class could go on and on, and each case needs to be looked at separately and carefully.
I think that despite all of our good intentions, it's simply not fair to inquire with
another teacher about our upcoming students. In fact, for all you know,
last years "duck" may actually turn into next years "swan"!