Teaching: Not just a job

As my heading states, teaching is not just a job, it’s a way of life. This has been proven again and again whenever dangerous situations stare them in the face and yesterday was no exception. In the Atlanta area and in Alabama, teachers “hunkered down” for the night with students due to the situation caused by inclement weather. It amazes me just how much is always expected of us on a day to day basis, and then, when the going gets tough, teachers stand tall and do what has to be done for the safety and well- being of their students. My hat’s off to these educators who stepped up once again in the face of adversity and showed the world the compassion and class ( pun intended) that we teachers possess!

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How do we get kids to slow down…..read….and think?

So, call me old fashioned, but sometimes I just feel it is important that students find the benefits in slowing down, reading and thinking for themselves. I find it increasingly difficult to keep students on task when the assignment is for them to read and think on their own. Now keep in mind that I haven’t just thrown them to the wolves and said…’here read this so I can get back to grading papers.’ My conscience won’t allow that. No, I have modeled strategies of chunking passages into smaller, more manageable units; I’ve modeled and allowed students to work together on varying close-reading strategies, and I’ve provided audio for students who may struggle a bit more than others. However, after all this practice, there comes a time when students need to fly with their own wings and put into practice the strategies we’ve learned. Invariably though, when these days come around 90% of the students in my regular 11th grade classes absolutely refuse to read. I felt the true irony today when, after working on close reading a short passage about transcendentalism, and having students construct their own meaning for transcendentalism, students refused to read on their own a short excerpt of ” Self Reliance” ! I believe that we as educators must insist that there is value in independent reading, not only in reading just what interests the students, but also in needed assigned material. We are so used to making things high interest that we loose site of some necessities and lessons of life. Not everything is something that we choose, or something that we want to do, but there is value in hard work and persistence. So, while there is great merit to teaching high interest material and student choice, there is much to learn from slowing down, strapping in and diving into the occasional ” boring stuff” (student terminology, not mine) .

Has the overuse of cooperative learning led to students that cannot think on their own?

During my time in college over 20 years ago, the new pedagogical key to student learning was cooperative learning. This fantastic new idea allowed for the free exchange of ideas, critical thinking and guaranteed student engagement. Fast forward over 20 years and now we have students who will not think on their own . These students, whom I see in their sophomore and junior years in high school, are so used to being allowed to discuss everything that they refuse to read or think independently.

Don’t get me wrong. I see the benefits in cooperative learning and I do use this practice at times in my own classroom. However, I believe that the practice has been so overused and incorrectly implemented that we have created a generation of ultra- dependent students. What’s wrong with the general idea of ” everything in moderation”, even in the classroom?