180 days of learning

180 days of learning

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Valuable Lesson

February 25, 2013

I was taught a valuable lesson about my students and myself last week.  I am in the habit of allowing a large measure of freedom during open work time in my class.  A student came up to me and asked a question concerning work that he had been assigned from the group he was in.  Now, don’t get me wrong I am glad to answer any students question at anytime, but I was speechless.  This student had not asked a single question, in class, all year.  He is a B student who is quite capable of A work.  He always completes his work and corrects mistakes that I suggest to him. I quickly answered his query and he returned to work, thankfully without acknowledging my strange behavior.

    The student and I have a good rapport outside of the classroom so I pulled him aside to see what had prompted this sudden question.  Below is his response, to the best of my memory.
       “Coach, I decided I might as well ask before I turned it in.  I am tired of always having to fix mistakes and thought I might try getting the right answer first.”
   My jaw hit the floor.  All year I have pushed my students to try to answer the question themselves and then ask for help if they could not find their own meaning.  In one quick moment I came to realize that students were doing the first, but ignoring the second.  Instead of seeking out my assistance during the learning process, they were waiting for me to point out their mistakes and then they quickly “fixed” them.  How could I even tell if they were learning if all they wanted to do was “fix” mistakes?
   So I resolved to start looking differently about what and how my students are learning.  I have started trying to be more proactive with my questioning and monitoring.  Hopefully I can make a culture shift now before it gets too late into the year.  I want to empower my students to learn, not fix.
   This realization has been good for me as well.  Many times as a teacher, I do the same that my students do.  I push and push until someone, usually during an observation, says, “No that’s not it.  You need to fix it this way.”  I need to be proactive about my practice.  I need to work more on my craft and do less waiting on someone to fix it for me.
     Thanks to my students for helping me to remember I need to be a life-long learner.  Thanks to my administrators for letting me learn some lessons on my own.
Josh Winrotte, 7th Grade Science Teacher, Lincoln Junior High
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