And Then, Sometimes, They Get It.
January 22, 2015
Posted by on
There have been moments where I have told my students that they cannot silently out-stare me. “When I ask a question,” I say, “you cannot stare me down to the point that I feel awkward, give in, and spill the beans on the answer.” They try any way. Among our students there seems to be a growing pattern of passivity. They would rather be told than find out; they would rather get than build. On a recent survey of my students, one in particular complained about the fact that I don’t just tell them answers but instead make them look it up and discuss possibilities with their peers. The tone was negative, but I smiled slightly at the comment. It meant I was doing something right.
As teachers however, we do not only want students to learn how to learn and think critically. We also want students to learn to enjoy the process and make it a habit for how they approach and interact with the world around them – even if it’s hard. As middle school students, the ideas and suggestions of adults are often dead-on-arrival. What do grown-ups know anyway? Still, we are planting seeds and hope that students will recognize the value of these days in the days to come.
Every now and again, though, they get it in real-time. Some will share there revelation with you; others will try to hide it, but I bet you catch it anyway. For my classroom, these moments most often come during my Romeo and Juliet unit. There is much digging in of the heels and protesting at the start. “He wrote in Old English!” they cry. “False,” I calmly reply. “Stomp your feet all you want. It’s okay. We will agree in a few weeks.” Then, I get to catch them having fun. It is the best kind of I-told-you-so. Last week, I had a student verbalize this moment for the class. We had spent several days writing our own sonnets. On Friday, students were given the opportunity to share their sonnets if they wish, and a surprising number of students signed up. Towards the end of one class period, one student shared with the class that she had been frustrated for most of the writing process and didn’t really understand why we had to do it. “Today, though,” She said. “I’m so glad that we did!” Yes! I wanted to plant her in each of my classes so they could hear her, as well.
Feel free to share your own “They get it!” moments in the comments.