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  • Writer's pictureMax Melby

Secret Agents, Iowa, and 2e Students

How do you get a group of anxious 2e students to share personal information with a group of strangers? Well, you obviously take the time to learn about how intelligence agencies keep info about people of interest, of course! This post contains some examples of how past 2e students have described their own interests and abilities in a safe way. Self-expression can be challenging so we think it's a big deal whenever we find a successful method.

A few years back, we hosted a group of educators from Iowa for a few days so they could learn about how Arete meets the needs of 2e learners. Their plan was to treat our school as a programmatic "proof of concept" so they could adapt and adopt some of our methods in their own programs.

Before getting started with the observations, discussions, and learning, we wanted to make sure that we shared a mutual understanding of 2e learners with our guests. We had plenty of good resources and experiences about learning profiles and identification methods, but it's important to give students a voice in the matter... which can be easier said than done!

Some 2e students have a hard time not sharing who they are with strangers, but most of our students at the time were very introverted and they weren't comfortable sharing personal information with our friends from Iowa. We took the time to explain to students why we were looking to hear their perspective and students warmed up a bit... but they were still hesitant. We needed to find platform to offer anonymity but also felt engaging enough for students to want to participate.

We landed on mini secret agent dossiers. It opened up the door to learn about the CIA, FBI, MI6, Interpol, the KGB, etc... all intellectually and emotionally engaging topics to dive into. Once students got the big picture, they were willing to take up the identity of a secret agent and build a small dossier. Students chose aliases and shared some information about themselves so our friends from Iowa could get information right from the source. You can find a few of those below.

I'm coming up on a decade working with 2e or otherwise neurodiverse learners. I think that the way the task/activity/job is introduced has a huge impact on the way these students will approach the task. I'm not here to argue about replicability in priming research ;). In this case, the intellectual and engaging framing helped our students communicate sensitive information a little more openly. It's not groundbreaking work, but I think the 2e teachers and parents spend a lot of time scrapping for resources and approaches so it makes sense to share.

I've got plenty more of these in my desk if anyone is interested!


Secret Agent #1: Tom James

1) About Me

  • I am in 5th grade and I like to play sports and video games.

2) My Secret Agent Gadgets

  • Taser

3) Secret Agent Strengths

  • Decoding difficult texts

  • Geography whiz

  • Super at science

4) I need my sidekick to...

  • Organize my stuff

  • Hold my stun gun

5) My Future Plans

  • To appear on radio and T.V.


Secret Agent #2: XAA396XAM

1) About Me

  • I am in 4th grade. I like to play Minecraft. My favorite winter sport is snowboarding.

2) My Secret Agent Gadgets

  • Fire

  • Boots

  • Laser

3) Secret Agent Strengths

  • Historical Hero

  • Puzzle Solver

  • Magnificent Memory

4) I need my sidekick to...

  • Remind me of important details and help me compute the distance between here and there.

5) My Future Plans

  • To live in Minnesota and make video games.


Secret Agent #3: Ricko

1) About Me

  • I am in 4th grade. I am lazy. My favorite food is lamb and my favorite animal is a cat.

2) My Secret Agent Gadgets

  • A book

  • A lie-detector test

  • Notes

3) Secret Agent Strengths

  • Vast vocabulary

  • Curiosity

  • Magnificent memory

4) I need my sidekick to...

  • Help me decode messages, transcribe my thoughts, and organize my documents.

5) My Future Plans

  • Become a video game tester.

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