I wouldn’t be disappointed if I weren’t working so hard

Facepalm

I taught a class today that didn’t go well. Actually, it went pretty badly.

I tried to engage in a discussion with my students that required critical thinking about statistics in the media, and they mostly didn’t engage with me. It took me a long time to plan out the lesson, carefully choose my resources, and prepare everything to guide them to a deeper understanding an appreciation.

And it mostly crashed and burned. You can read the play-by-play on the class blog, if you want (link).

Each day I write a post explaining what happened during class for anyone who missed it, and for the reference of those who were there. Today I shared my frustration with their stance in the room. From that post:

You’re not here to “do school”. You’re here to develop skills and learn to think critically. Calculating medians is not a way to develop your brain. Completing tasks is not the point.

I need you to be able to analyze, interpret, draw conclusions, and make decisions based on data. Any spreadsheet can calculate medians, but Excel can’t tell you whether three minutes of exercise is enough each week or whether e-cigarettes are a good thing.

I’m fully aware that our school system tends to prioritize finishing activities over real learning. Math can be particularly vicious because of the number of discrete, technical skills required to even begin to “see the big picture” of how everything relates and works together.

But I’m trying hard to break outside of that mode. Really hard. I’m trying to make real learning the priority. And I’m not above admitting that I made a mistake here. This lesson wasn’t designed well, or I didn’t prepare my students well for this approach today, or maybe both. But here’s what I need next:

I want what’s best for each of you, and that means actual learning, not just task completion. If there’s something you need in this class to make that happen and I’m not providing it, I need you to tell me. Today didn’t work, and I don’t want a repeat performance tomorrow. None of us does, I hope. Help me out.

I really mean that. I was so much more disappointed today because of how much planning and time went into this failure. And worse: I don’t know what I’ve learned from the experience. I’m now counting on my students to tell me what they really need to meet the goals I’ve set out for them.

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6 thoughts on “I wouldn’t be disappointed if I weren’t working so hard

  1. Its okay grasley ! I never had you as a teacher but i know you will always be a great friend :) you are very kind hearted and generous to anyone in sight , dont give up now you have 2 months left!

  2. That is rough. I have had similar experiences. Thank you for sharing and reminding other teachers they are not alone in these moments of crash and burn.

    Did you have a conversation with them in class today about what happened and what they need and are willing to do?

  3. I wonder sometimes how ready most of our students are for real learning. It takes patience on the part of both parties and it’s not immediately obvious if it’s happening. When students answer questions correctly, that’s an immediate result that’s measurable. That’s what a lot of them are used to. Hang in there. They’ll come around.

  4. Thanks so much for this – for your honesty, and for putting it out there. I felt much better when I realized that other people use the same language with their students as I do. Hope that it gets better. I find often that it’s really hard for my students to try a different learning model in my classroom (I teach Core French) than in other classrooms. Critical thinking is a challenge, but one that it’s worth continuing to work on.

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