One of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is … well, pacing, I guess. What I teach, how I teach it, how long I give students to complete their work … things like that. (This, if you can’t tell already, is rather going to be a rambling post. I’m trying to work through some things – and I’ve always done that best through writing.)
The impetus for this reflection is twofold: first, one of my writing students mentioned that another teacher – a colleague of mine who I respect and who I thought (think?) respected me – told her that he didn’t think she would do well in my class. I didn’t really pursue it with the student – and won’t; I have no intention of involving a student in this any more than has already happened! – but what she said struck me. Am I really so difficult a teacher that other teachers recommend <i>not</i> being in my class?
The second thing that happened came from reading my students’ blogs. One of my grade eights mentioned that she has a lot of homework in my class, but her friends in other classes don’t have any. Now, I don’t think this is just a “me” situation – there are personal and professional decisions that each teacher makes that he or she believes will best help students learn and be prepared for future learning. But the comment did make me think.
So here is where I stand: I <u>know</u> that inquiry – as difficult as it is for students (for everyone!) to learn how to do – is the best way to learn. The concepts students learn through inquiry stay with them longer, rather than being forgotten after the test. The skills students learn through inquiry are ones that will be necessary for them not just in school, but also in life. Inquiry, however, is a lot more challenging and a lot more time-consuming than reading a textbook or watching a movie and answering some questions or doing a worksheet. (I should note that I’m not saying this is what my colleagues are doing necessarily, but it is an alternative way to teach.)
I also know that there are students who are using their time in class wisely for the most part, and several who have decided that class time is for socializing. I notice a lot more than they think I do, and I comment only on part of what I notice. This is because I figure that they need to learn through experience that if you spend your time in class socializing, you’re going to have a <i>lot</i> of work to do later … or you’re going to end up freaking out the weekend before a big project is due.
And yet – although I’ve never been someone who is focused specifically on my students liking me (my job is to teach them, to help them learn; sometimes that means I am disliked) … well. I’m human. I may not <i>need</i> them to like me, but I would like it if they did. Regardless of that, however, I also don’t want students to feel overwhelmed by my class. I want them to be challenged, to have to work hard, to know that they are all fully capable of reaching high standards.
I don’t want them to feel like they’re drowning. However, if the reason they’re drowning is because they’re not working during class time, they’re procrastinating, they’re deciding not to ask questions and instead puzzle through things on their own … then the drowning is a choice.
So how do I tell the difference?