Friday, September 16, 2005

what a slacker

I can't believe I haven't blogged in twelve days (at least). I was doing so well there for a while. I guess that always happens when school gets into the swing. Right now, I'm writing a conceptual framework for my class project in qualitative research. I'm not really sure what I'm doing, but I've been working on it most of the day.

Tuesday was an interesting day of teaching. A few of them said that they wanted to make a rule that I couldn't post anything on blackboard except for Tuesday and Thursday. Which doesn't work for me at all. I guess I saw blackboard not necessarily as this place to put lesson but as a way to share resources. So, when I had a minute on the weekends I would post some secondary sources that I thought might help them in some of their other classes and most definitely in their student teaching and future teaching. But they perceived these as assignments that needed to be done. I'll take part of the blame because I am the teacher. But what I saw on that day was that these students have been totally socialized to "do what the teacher says" and then stress out about it. Many of the statements were "(YOU) Tell me what to put in the portfolio," "(YOU) Tell me what homework I have this week." "There are too many little assignments." Also, I told them they could turn the portfolio in on Tuesday or Thursday and they wanted me to just tell them which day. That reminded me of a story that a friend and student mentioned about field work. The teacher gave the students several choices about what assignment they could do--they were all fun and artistic. The kids said, "Just pick one for me."

Don't get me wrong. They weren't being disrespectful when they explained this, but I was a tad frustrated for a moment. I thought about it off and on for a couple of days. Used to, I probably would have been upset and kicking myself for being a bad teacher until I started analyzing what these statements meant.

I'm teaching teachers, and who we are as students says a lot about who we will be as teachers. We are reading about constructivist teaching methods and they want me to tell them what to do. It's really fascinating. Two weeks ago we finished this statement "I want students who..." One student said, "These would be great kids, but I think it would be really boring." You know, I really agree with her. When I think back, one of the most frustrating students I had was so concerned about what I wanted--almost obsessively--that she never learned anything. She was always trying to guess my mind, and I was always trying to get her to think for herself. It was painful for both of us, and she was such a nice and kind girl.

I guess my point is that I really want them to recognize these assumptions that they have. These assumptions are being played as students. When I pulled together a student-centered class in high school, there would be some tension and a lot of kids didn't like it at first. But I think it is harder for college students because they are so used to the "university-style" of teaching I guess.

There is a lot of suspicion that goes along with that. I notice that suspicion with high school and college. You offer a choice, and they may think that you'll pull the rug out from under them later and then give them a bad grade.

Grades: I really want to talk about this. I see my "assignments" as something more than that. They are completing assignments for a grade rather than considering how it might work in the classroom and reflecting. The assignment and the grade may matter more to a lot of them. That reflection piece is the most important piece of these methods class, and it is really hard to make that reflection explicit and useful. Hmmm.


Marcia said...

I came up with a grading method for blogs that I think works. I defined "C" level participation explicitly and then for B, they need to do "occasionally" more than is required, and for an A they need to "consistently" do more than required. So far, so good.

Did you give them the Bajillion Ways to Respond? That really helped me see out of the box!

Keri said...

Yes, I gave them that. I'm sure they are just really busy. But I would love for them to see these as more than assignments. I love your grading method. I love the idea that the A's are above and beyond. I always did that in high school, but I don't think I've made it explicit with this class. So, that's my fault.

Marcia said...

Are you having them do a portfolio of their best responses at the end of class? When we did that in MWP it seemed to connect more with me that this was for my benefit.