06 April 2013

Going through the motions

This week I received my second observation of the year and on it was the phrase "teacher and students appear to be 'going through the motions.'"  Anyone who is doing the Flipped Classroom knows that it is very difficult to simply "go through the motions."  Being the scientist that I am, I decided to test a hypothesis and start doing what the observation said I was already doing.  I discovered some interesting things about myself and the class:

  1. I hate going through the motions.  When I reduced the amount of effort that I was putting in each class, I became frustrated.  I felt like I wasn't being myself and, in turn, wasn't giving my students the best version of me.  On a related note, it is really boring sitting at a desk and just watching people work, even if it was for only 5 minutes.  How do people do this on a regular basis?
  2. I was far more frantic getting things ready for class when I wasn't preparing properly beforehand.  I found I needed to print out material right in class that should have been copied, the advanced students were always waiting for me to get to them and therefore wasted valuable class time, and I ended up cleaning up the lab benches after my students were done because I wasn't making sure they were doing as they went along.  In the end, I felt more overworked while attempting to do less.  This led to feeling exhausted at the end of the end; drained of energy for the wrong reasons.
  3. My students are hate not going through the motions.  Whenever they encountered something that required real thought or directions that didn't clearly state every single thing they needed to do, they balked at it.  There are guided inquiry activities in each unit we do and those represented the biggest struggles for my students.  I had known this was the case already, but it was more obvious when I was spending more time behind my desk simply observing them at work.  This isn't true for all, but the majority (even many of the "A" students) kept asking for me to "just tell me what I need to do next."
This last part really disturbed me.

Why is it that students are frustrated when they have to think/problem solve in school?

So it comes down to expectations.  Is what we expect students to do during the school day too low level for them?  Do their brains really want more?  From their teachers? from the school? from the curricula?  From society?  

Somewhere along their path to my class, they learned the wrong message about what school should really be.  Now, how do we unlearn them?