Sunday, March 1, 2015

What Our Students Don't Need

So often I focus on what our students need and want in the classroom.  While it's difficult to always know exactly what these things are, I know so many wonderful teachers that are doing all they can to find out and provide those things in their classrooms.

Today, I started thinking about the things our students don't need.  What are the things that we can do without in the classroom?  These are a few of the things that I thought of right away...

1.  Sarcasm - Sarcasm is something that many of us use to survive our day.  We, without intention (or sometimes with intention), make sarcastic comments to others in an effort to get a laugh, make ourselves feel better, or just as a habit. As adults, we get this.  We know when sarcasm is meant to be funny and when it is meant to be hurtful.  However, not all of our students have the ability to know the difference.  One sarcastic comment may make a student question his/her ability, knowledge, or even their worth.  While there are many students that understand sarcasm, there are also many that do not.  That sarcastic comment that may or may not be funny is not worth the adverse effect that it could have a student's self-confidence.

2.  Grades on Everything - Not every assignment needs to be graded.  More often than not, feedback is much more important than a number grade.  Students often receive grades without any knowledge of how they can improve or why they received that grade.  Sometimes, students just need feedback. They need to hear us explain what they did well and what they can do to improve.  Better yet, we may need to listen to them explain what they thought of an assignment.  What did they struggle with? Would they suggest that we assign this in the future?  Feedback and conversation is worth so much more than grades.  While I understand that in most classrooms and schools, grades are necessary, it's not necessary to grade everything.  It's more important to form relationships and remind your students that you value their thoughts and opinions.

3.  Lectures - The students in our classrooms are unique.  They are collaborative, creative, and are very aware of the fact that they can Google almost anything.  As teachers, we must begin to realize that we can still teach our students and guide them without standing at the front of the room talking for an hour.  Instead, we can give them opportunities to experience learning and create learning experiences that lend themselves to collaboration and creativity.  It's okay not to have all of the answers and allow our students to see us as learners as well.  In doing so, we create an environment that makes learning meaningful and exciting.  It's no longer an event, but an experience. Students are encouraged to wonder and ask questions, knowing that you might have to find the answer together.

These are just a few of the random things that I thought about today.  While there are no perfect classrooms and I definitely don't have all of the answers, I think that we can begin by focusing on what our students need and don't need.  Not what's easy, not what's convenient, but what will create the best learning experiences for them?

What are some things that you think our students don't need?


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