Oh the giggle I had when I read Joanne Jacobs' "You're not special" entry. If I were asked to name one thing that I thought was a detriment to students coming into the junior high it would have been to not tell students so often --and so undeservedly-- how special and wonderful they are. Having to tell students "No" at the junior high in seventh grade came to be almost taboo because it would hurt their fragile young egos. They were only fragile because they hadn't heard that before, seemingly not from anybody.
The students I taught last year at the junior high started kindergarten the year I started teaching (so it goes to figure that this year my tenth graders also started kindergarten then too) and they were (the ninth graders) by far the ones who had the most difficulty being told they were wrong. My tenth graders this year seem to be a little more hardened, a little more hip to sometimes being wrong. But there are a few who still believe mommy and daddy will take care of anything they do that is wrong. And wrong can be many things: not getting an A, not getting the city they wanted for a project, not getting an extra day on an assignment given out two weeks ago but they were absent the day before it was due, not getting to work with a certain person, etc.
I do not know how to get around this problem. Back at the junior high, before some of my good adaptive lesson plans got nixed, I had been able to create environmets in my room where it was ok for students to be wrong. In foreign language class we would don new hats with new foreign language names (not my favorite thing to do, but it worked) in order to create a persona for the kids so they could take risks with the language. In my high school classes, some witty remarks seem to do the trick, as does me making (on accident usually) mistakes here and there. Having a good sense of humor on my part helps. Having had my 'hot buttons' uninstaled after my first year of teaching also helped tremendously. (You know, the 'hot buttons' the things that would get you irritated but then you wised up and realized you have to be selective in the battles you wage. I'm just glad it only took me one year to realize the kids won everytime they were able to push those buttons. Although, the buttons seemed to try to find their way to the top earlier this year.)
I do believe kids are special, don't get me wrong; but special in a way that means that I believe in them. Not special in a way that means they can do no wrong. Trust me, if I didn't believe in kids and the power of what they can do and what they can teach me, I wouldn't be teaching.