Thursday, February 28, 2013
They come from the worksheet generation. Literally, most of what they've done in school is take standardized tests and fill in worksheets. They haven't been asked to think, or to try to think, or to imagine that thinking means anything. They just have done things, filled in things.
My class is about critical thinking. They have to read stuff and figure it out, truly, unlock it, look into it, imagine ways to respond to it. There's not nearly as much doing as there is thinking. In our class discussions they have to exhibit this critical thinking through stumbling discussions where we work out - out loud - our thoughts.
They can't or won't do this. They sit in stunned silence. They don't read.
I'm teaching 10th grade.
And I have 15 weeks to get them to the end of a college course and ready for the next college course.
Now, this is probably vain, but I pride myself on never letting my students see me sweat, or flustered, or frazzled. But I couldn't keep it in. I let loose with a "WHAT-THE-FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF-HELL-ARE-WE-DOING!"
I realized we were half way through the semester and that we were nowhere near going to finish the semester where we needed to be.
"We're behind," I said. "And it's partly my fault, partly your fault, and partly your school district's fault. We need to work harder if we're going get anything out of this semester. You aren't reading. You aren't participating. You aren't coming to class ready to do the work. And it's hurting your chances of passing. Now, everyone passes here at regional mediocre university But dammit, we're going to pass for real."
I released them and went to the departmental assistant. I found an empty classroom on Saturday afternoon and booked a 3-5 pm spot. And I booked another for next Wednesday, 7 pm. I sent an email to all of my classes. I called it "extra class for people who want pass."
I haven't figured out exactly what I'll do with them at these meetings. But I know we need more time. I might make them read from the book aloud, and let them start and stop and fumble and find meaning. I might make them write out short paragraphs that summarize what they've read. I've been teaching all this time thinking that was something they could or would do on their own. But I'm convinced that they're not.
I suppose there's some other option, something I'm missing, but extra class is all I could come up with.
Woe be to all of us if it doesn't work.