If given the chance, would you go back and re-live high school for a day?
Recently, one teacher did just that. Alexis Wiggins took on the task of spending two days in the shoes of a grade 10 high school student to aid in her new role as a Learning Coach.
Here were her key takeaways with my thoughts below (see the original post here)
1. Students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting
I was drained, and not in a good, long, productive-day kind of way. No, it was that icky, lethargic tired feeling.
Her suggestions: mandatory stretch breaks, a stand up activity, mini basketball net in class
My thoughts: I agree. After hearing about the “stretch break” practice from a colleague, I now give students a 2 minute stretch break in the middle of an 80 minute lecture - seems tiny, but I find it helps them re-focus. With smaller or longer classes, I extend the break.
2. High School students sit passively and listen during approximately 90% of their classes.
It was not just the sitting that was draining but that so much of the day was spent absorbing information but not often grappling with it.
Her suggestions: Mini lessons with activities for formative assessment immediately after; setting a timer to limit how much the teacher speaks at once; and starting EVERY class off with questions that need to be clarified, or any doubts from the previous day’s work.
My thoughts: Wiggins tips are possible in high school settings, and encouraged in teacher’s college; they just require time and creativity to be designed effectively.
Still, there is an issue here beyond the control of the individual teacher: the push for quantity over quality in content. Another disturbing element is that students become so used to sitting passively, that by the time they are in college or university lectures, many of them don’t care to engage; they expect to just be spoken to.
Whether in high school, college, or undergrad, I believe paring down the content, and delving into more depth is part of the solution. We need to redesign courses, programs and schools to enable less passivity and a lot more relevance and engagement.
3. You feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long.
I lost count of how many times we were told be quiet and pay attention...In addition, there was a good deal of sarcasm and snark directed at students and I recognized, uncomfortably, how much I myself have engaged in this kind of communication.
Her suggestions: Find the patience within you and use it to welcome and answer student questions rather than shutting them down; use a “no sarcasm” policy and ask students to call you out on it if you don’t abide; give them a few minutes at the start of a test to read through and ask questions so that common questions are addressed to the group.
My thoughts: I have also been at fault of using sarcasm when students repeat questions that were literally asked the minute before. Maybe it’s because I feel slighted that they weren’t paying attention the minute before. Or because some of them are playing online games or on Facebook. But that’s another can of worms, and back to 2), it is hard to pay attention while sitting!
Wiggins has since received both support and critique from a broad range of educators and other adults, ranging from the likes of “Yes, this woman’s findings are completely spot on” to “there is a time and place for sitting and learning; can teachers really be expected to be informative, entertaining, caring and engaging all at once?”
There is validity to the range of opinions. For me, it comes down to less content, more quality and engagement; essentially changing the delivery-receptivity dynamic. It already is happening with talented educators in current systems.
A passionate educator.. on a quest for a schooling model to love!