Blue Jays and Crows

The former headmaster at my school was an older, intimidating man. Every year, he would tell this story to the new teachers.

When he was a boy in grade school, his teacher would separate the class into two groups, the blue jays and the crows. This wasn’t unusual at the time. I remember my elementary school doing much the same.

The blue jays would be full of the “smart kids” and those who followed directions to the tee. The crows, on the other hand, would be full of the disruptive kids and those students who seemed to generally struggle finding the right answer to a question.

The blue jays wanted to excel. They’re probably the kids parents would point to as an example of how their own kids should behave. My headmaster argued that blue jays were the sort of students who would shine no matter who taught them.

Now the crows, they were the kind of kids that seemed like they were never listening in class. They couldn’t sit still to save their lives and you might need a Rosetta Stone to read their handwriting. They carried with them the insecurities and low self-esteem of being labeled a crow by their teacher.

“It’s the crows,” my headmaster would say carefully, “that need us the most in the classroom.”

When I think about it, I probably would’ve been sorted into the crows. That may be why I have a special place in my heart for those students, who on the surface act like the class clowns, but inside, hunger for some way to be special and stand out.

Years later, way after the headmaster retired, I came across research that added a deeper lens to appreciating his story. Real life crows remember the faces of those who’ve been kind to them. It turns out that while crows are indeed social, noisy birds, they are also incredibly smart. In fact, if you put up a complex puzzle for a crow to solve, all you need to do is provide the crow with the right tools to solve the problem.

I recognize this kind of binary sorting of students is problematic for a multitude of reasons. Hopefully, it's no longer common practice in elementary schools. But even if we might use labels different from blue jay or crow, there may be invisible characterizations we are unaware we're making towards our students.

I do believe every student in the classroom needs the teacher's full attention and guidance, including the blue jays. Even if it might be true that blue jays can shine on their own, an attentive teacher will help them be radiant. And the crows shouldn't be underestimated. Their potential is largely untapped, and they have the most room to grow. All they need is for someone to believe in them and give them the tools to succeed.  

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©2024 Milani Creative LLC. All Rights Reserved

©2024 Milani Creative LLC. All Rights Reserved