Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Well, this is dumb!"

Social Studies - Today in third hour, one conversation went something like this.

"Why are we doing things this way? I'm not learning. I learn better through lecture," said a girl in third hour.

"You mean you just want me to talk about these topics so you can regurgitate the information on a test?" I responded. 

"YES!!" said the girl, and a nearby boy echoed her sentiment.

This is where we are right now. While about half of the class is taking to the student-driven model, one-fourth is having focus issues (they go back and forth between their learning goals and a Medieval game called "Forge of Empires" that I offered as an "extra" during this unit and to which they are addicted) and one-fourth is hapless.  The hapless few are the ones with the most ardent questioning about the new class format. It's not that they cannot function (they are some of the brightest students in class) but I think it's because they don't want to put in the work. They want the delivery model. They want the teacher to tell them everything they will need to know for the few days around testing so that they, with minimal effort, can pass the inevitable test.

I told the girl, "That's not the way the world works. When you have a job, your boss will come to you and say 'We have a problem. Here's the problem. Have a solution to me by tomorrow.' Your boss will not come to you with a problem and also a solution for you to implement. If you boss had the solution to the problem, you would be unnecessary."

Apparently she hadn't thought of that. She still said, "Well, this is dumb." I responded with, "Dumb or not, it's the way we're doing things for the rest of the year." The hardcore passivity of our group this year astounds me. Many take no leadership in their own learning and it is because of this realization that I've changed things. The best thing I can do for them is force them to take a more active role in their learning. If they cannot develop the skills they will need to learn independently, then others will out-compete them for the best colleges and jobs and I will be partially responsible because I didn't prepare them well enough. So...whether or not they like it, this is one time that a little tough love is in order. As I have said previously, I do them no service by allowing them to see learning as something that happens TO them instead of something that happens BY them. I have five weeks left to help them begin the process of becoming active learners. Many are on their way but there are a few who are going to need to rethink their role as a learner.


  1. I encounter this, too, and feel it is students who are great at scool discourse already that usually fall into pattern. I am trying to offer them what they want, by teaching a crafted unit, but with the goal of letting them take over all the leadership and crafting of it as we proceed. The test, I have told them, is going to be the next unit, which is small group book clubs, which will be entirely independent. Thankfully, last week, they stepped up to the plate and began taking more of the responsibility.

    1. That is awesome. I think there has to be a lot of unlearning and almost forcing kids to try something new. I do believe, though, that kids will thrive in a more student-driven, project-based environment. After all, it's what they do outside of school. They learn what they want to learn in the way they want to learn it. Why can't we incorporate some of that into school?