We’ve just finished our first trimester of the year at our school. So, with all the finals, grading, and writing comments for report cards, I must have been skimping a little bit in planning my classes. Looking around the classroom at the bored faces of some students and distracted by some other off-task students, I was reminded how easy it is to get stuck in a rut. I’ve read this before and thought that I “knew” it, but for some reason it has become a little more clear recently. I noticed my voice was a little raw from talking too much and too loud, trying to get my students’ attention. I noticed I was a little more tired at the end of class. I noticed that I wasn’t enjoying teaching as much. I was worried too much about product and not enough about process. The class was about me, not them.
It wasn’t all bad. Most classes went fine. This was just one or two recently and they weren’t awful, but I knew they could have been a lot better. It was enough to make me see how so many teachers have a negative view of students and resist change. If the students aren’t engaged, they’re bored. Sooner or later, consistently bored students are going to find a way to cure that boredom. That usually results in some distracting behavior from the students. If this spreads to other students, then the teacher might buckle down on the students and resist any type of group work or even any mildly unstructured work because students are not responsible enough to work creatively. I think the class just gets less and less engaging from there and the teacher rejects any suggestions to try new methods.
If anything, it has woken me up to the importance of engaging students (not necessarily having “fun”). I think student choice and relevance are paramount. Everything seems to reverse itself when students are engaged. I have other classes in which the students are working on photo narratives. I gave them basic guidelines, but gave them considerable freedom when it came to their topics and how they complete their projects. I don’t remember any off topic conversations. The students were focused, working, and learning. I was able to bounce from student to student and help them directly in a very meaningful way. This class was about each. individual. student. All because they were working on something that meant something to them.
The downside? It took more planning initially. I see lack of planning time as one of the major issues of our educational system. Teachers can’t take time to experiment if they are planning in order to meet a deadline (class tomorrow) instead of planning in order to meet the needs of students. I need to keep this in mind. I need to remember to take enough time to plan my lessons and curriculum well. I’d like to think that the amount of effort I spend on planning engaging lessons/curriculum will be directly related to the amount of effort students put into working in my classes.
Thanks for reading! As always, please leave me some comments or questions.
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