During the Polar Vortex’s visit last week, I ventured out to school on a snow-day, like many teachers working on a day “off”. As I cautiously crept out of my neighborhood to make the 7 mile drive to school, I quickly realized the intelligence of our superintendent for canceling school. The roads were covered in black ice with sub zero temperatures. Our buses and walkers would have struggled to make it to school safely. Driving slow and cautiously, I turned onto the main road.
Quickly noticing a diverse group of adventurers out on the road. Some speeding along in their four-wheel drives, while others cautiously inching down the road like snails. As a jeep sped by I noticed the driver texting. When, checking my rear-view mirror, I caught a glimpse of the driver on the phone. Things that might be done under normal weather conditions, but not what I hope to see on the slick roads.
As I passed a couple of cars that had slid off of the side of the road, I began to wonder if driving teachers are going to be evaluated like school teachers. Instead of the driver paying the price of a wreck or receiving points on their license for their actions, their instructor will be marked down or pay the price with their career. OF COURSE this is ridiculous.
But this is what is happening in schools. Our students are like the drivers. Some listen to past instructional advice and proceed with caution. Other take risks and short cuts to get to where they are going on time and arrive safely. And finally there are those that are unlucky, unskilled or take too great a risk and end up wrecked on the side of the road. In all cases the driver is responsible for the end results, not their instructor.
Ultimately the learner is responsible for learning and the teacher is responsible for teaching. When examining the effectiveness of teachers examine their lessons, pedagogy and practice. By examining how well student receive their lessons measures learning which ultimately is the learners responsibility. Great lessons can be taught and the students have the free will to be active learners, passive learners or just be present. Everyone can learn but desire and effort are necessary for it to happen!
To exist as a social individual talk is needed. A classroom should be a place where dialogue is constant and flowing. Without this dialogue students may become isolated and will not perform at their optimal levels. In my experience, I have always performed better in a comfortable setting. Students can not feel comfortable if they are not involved in discussions. Our jobs as teachers is to involve our students, there is no better way to involve students in class than by conversations. How will teachers know if they are effective without the verbal feedback from students?
I remember sitting in so many classes in college feeling very uncomfortable. The professor is standing in front of the class preaching the lecture. Students afraid to answer the questions hurled down from the pulpit. Tension is created by professors who fail to develop a dialogue with the class. Students are afraid of how the professor will respond to their answers, This situation occurs in classrooms on every level all over the country. Teachers need to create an environment in which students feel comfortable to answer questions and formulate their own questions. If students are afraid to respond they turn off to learning. Why do some teachers foster this stand-off environment?
To create a discussion based classroom, teachers need to move from the “lecture” mode. Create a conversation atmosphere in your class. From day on give ALL students an opportunity to share their voice. Promote discussions with interactive activities. Lectures can be boring and should be avoided. Students to participate in their learning. Answering questions and generating new ideas. All students input needs to be accepted and discussed. Students need to make decisions in regards to the direction the conversations head in class. Students voice needs to be valued in decision making. Give them choices: Which book should we read? How should we complete the lab: hands on or virtually? Through empowerment students will gain motivation and participation will increase.
Discussions need to occur daily, ranging from current events, review of yesterdays lecture or just about how their school day is going. Students will feel valued. Learn how to converse with each other. Encounter disagreements and learn how to handle them appropriately. When I was growing up this all happened around our dinner table. Sadly many of our students don’t have this experience any more. When need to recreate it for them in our classrooms!
Create a “talking” classroom!!