The paper airplane I found on the floor summed up my activity for that class. I was barely able to salvage 20 minutes of serious learning from the 55-minute period. I never bombed an activity like that before in my entire teaching career. It would have been more productive to have a fire drill! I had over-challenged my students and they tuned out….rats….I worked so hard to create the exploration.
Students these days are changing, and it is becoming more challenging to engage them in deep thinking. On one hand many can’t seem to be able to remember their own last names; but on the other hand, they seem to be much more able and willing to figure things out and explore than in previous years. I’m thinking it has to do with their need to figure out apps and internet games. As teachers, we need to capitalize on how our students learn best, and that means being willing to try new things…even fail once in awhile.
“You need to have bad behavior sometimes to understand good behavior,” said my student, Bella, as we were talking afterwords. That’s what I mean about amazing insights. Their bad behavior (that I had not seen in any of the previous 7 months) was telling me that most of the time I am doing pretty well with them. It’s not just the good assessments at the end of the year, rather the relationships throughout the year that help me know when what I am doing is working out.
Sixth hour rolled around and I changed my approach and scaffolding for the activity. I skipped the parts that were overwhelming and focused on the critical learning objective. The students were obviously excited during whole-class discussion and exhibited strong learning as they critiqued each others’ thinking. Success!
We can focus on the things that go wrong and be frustrated when students don’t seem to cooperate, or we can celebrate the fact we are learning with them. One will keep us joyfully employed, the other will turn our joy into a job.