Today I read the article “Faster Isn’t Smarter” by Cathy Seeley, posted by druin in preparation for the #EduRead chat tonight. I have the book this comes from, and haven’t been able to sit and read the book, so it was great to read this portion. I too have found that there are so many things that I get caught up in that I can’t keep up with the things I really want to do. I also love to read, and in hopes of doing just that have purchased many books which continue to sit on my shelf, started or not, waiting to be read.
I have been of the opinion since I started teaching 11 years ago that we are too easy on students. I went to high school in the 70’s, and remember being expected to do way more that we ask of students now. If I couldn’t do HW problems, it was expected I would find a way to get help or to work on gaining an understanding. Honors courses were set up as individual study courses, you had to be self motivated to succeed in them. I cannot remember walking into a class without completed HW, and would have felt mortified to turn in something that I hadn’t given time and energy to. This was also an expectation in my home, that school was my job and I was to do my very best at it.
I have high expectations of my students, and will often challenge them in class with challenging problems, which I try to choose to also be interesting. Obviously, I can’t please them all, all the time, but I do try. I will answer questions with questions, ask them to organize their thoughts and ideas that they are comfortable with, show them how to dig for more information, and push, push, push until they want to give up. Often, something will then break and they will become excited about figuring out a piece of the problem and become willing to dig more.
I wish I could say this goes smoothly and easily and that I have a magic equation for how to make this work. It often takes 2-3 months at the beginning of school setting the stage to show the students what I expect, and listening to a lot of complaining and whining about how it’s too hard, before things begin to show signs of turning. As difficult as this time can be, I know for certain it is worth it, and will continue to push students as long as I am in the classroom and working with them. I know I am not doing them any favors by not pushing them to be their best, and teaching them to be solid problem solvers and critical thinkers.
The essence of this and how I do this is going to be my talk at CMC North in Asilomar in December. I hope to be able to show other teachers the routines I build in my classroom and how I challenge students to think, research, and become solid problem solvers and critical thinkers. I truly hope this will be enlightening and encouraging for other teachers. If nothing else, it will really make me reflect and pay attention this year to what I am doing.
Thanks for the article and topic.