Hi there! I’m Ian Byrd. I write here at Byrdseed to help you develop tasks and questions that will get your students’ brains sweating.
Why is this important to me?
I’ll tell you a brief story of my own woe.
The Kind of Student You Wish For
I was a model student from kindergarten through high school: great grades, well-behaved, lots of extra-curricular activities. As my teacher, you would have been very proud of me.
You might have thought, “We did a good job with that one.”
But… you would have been mistaken!
I Didn’t Have To Think Until Age 18
When I got to college, something horrible happened. I had to think for the first time. And I didn’t like it. It made me feel embarrassed and inferior and, frankly, stupid.
I went through an identity crisis. I had always been The Smart Kid™ in school! How could I be struggling now? Looking back, I’m certain I experienced depression.
My parents were mortified by my sudden shift in attitude towards school. I talked about dropping out. All the while, mind you, I still earned As and the occasional B. But, here’s the rub. They were no longer easy As.
Let me emphasize that. It wasn’t low grades that bothered me. It was that I suddenly had to think to get As and Bs.
See, I had been conditioned to expect high praise for my easy As. “You’re so smart!” my teachers told me from kindergarten through 12th grade for acing easy tasks. Then, in college, when I suddenly needed help, when the work was suddenly complex and ambiguous with no clear path forward, I simply didn’t know what to do.
I’m Not The Only One
I’ve since learned that my experience is surprisingly common!
When I speak about this at conferences, parents of college-aged students come up with tears in their eyes, saying:
My kid is going through the exact same thing right now! They had always done so well in school, but now we don’t know what to do!
This is a pattern, but one that schools are blind to. I mean, how often does your district reach out to students two years after graduation and check if they’re having an identity crisis or experiencing depression because they no longer feel smart?
As teachers, we should be wondering, “Am I preparing my students to excel at complex thinking, or am I training them to ace a multiple-choice test?”
So, that’s why Byrdseed exists. I want to help teachers get their kids’ brains sweating, starting the first day of kindergarten – not their first year of college.
I Perpetuated The Problem
Now, as a teacher, I was also part of the problem. I set up my own 6th graders for the same disaster I had experienced.
- I’d praise them for getting everything right without needing help. “You’re so smart!,” I’d say.
- I’d wonder what to do with “early finishers” without asking myself why I was assigning them tasks that were obviously too simple in the first place.
- I never called my highest-performing students over to work with me, accidentally teaching them that “smart kids” don’t work with the teacher.
The fact is, I didn’t know how to ask complex, interesting questions that would get my students thinking. But I’ve gotten better! And that’s what I write about here at Byrdseed.com.
Want a good place to start? How about Asking Better Questions!
Who Is Ian?
I taught 6th graders in Orange County, California, where I grew up as a student as well. On my journey to become a teacher, I earned a degree in Computer Science, briefly played bass in an almost successful rock band, and married Mary — a fantastic fashion designer. I now live in Oregon.
I spent a decade speaking at events around the USA (and once in Canada!). Nowadays I send out free weekly mailers packed with Puzzlements and develop video projects and investigations for students (and their teachers) at Byrdseed.TV.
Have a question? Want more information? Just want to send a note? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Byrdseed’s logo was created by my friend Cindy at Blot and Dot.