Last week I received a call from one of my son’s teachers about his inability to sit and copy verbatim power point notes for 45 minutes straight. To add insult to injury, this teacher went on to describe how he gives his students a “notes quiz” to prove that they wrote down every word which also gives kids a free 100 as a grade. I listened to him, a friend of mine no less, with these thoughts racing in my head…
- Who on earth gives kids, especially HS freshman, 45 minutes of verbatim notes via ppt?
- My son has to come out of this class!
- Wait, I have to teach my son to conform even when he does not agree.
- Oh my gosh, I am your friend but your teaching practices suck!!!
To be clear, this is a geography class and the class is comprised of half a period of notes and half a period of proving that you took notes. Kids sit in their assigned seats in rows the entire period and are not allowed to have any discussion or debate. The information comes from the teacher and textbook. Kids do not have access to any hand held technology other than their own devices which they are not allowed to use. Based on the rest of the conversation, pretty much every kid is completely disengaged. The curriculum is standard across the board and every class is completely standardized. (Yeah, that educon conversation about standard vs standardization came at the right moment!) This teacher did not get it and believed that what he was doing was great. He’s teaching the way that he was taught, which is traditionally what takes place in schools.
Sometimes in the “edu-twitter” world, we forget that there are entire schools built upon this very model.
Before I share where the conversation went, I need to share that this is also a coach with no planning period. Unlike other teachers, there is no time to plan lessons during the school day. He is either coaching or teaching all day and as much as there is a discrepancy in schools, especially Texas where football rules all, teachers need time to plan and collaborate…coaches too.
The Edu-Parent/Friend of Teacher Response
After letting this teacher get his complaint about my kid out, I told him three things…
- You cannot expect anyone to sit in an uncomfortable desk for 45-50 minutes to write paragraphs of information from ppt.
- With that said, I cannot be your friend if your teaching continues to suck the way that it does.
- Let me help you…please.
After his shock passed, we had a nice conversation about how geography should be a fully interactive class. This is the class where kids get to explore the world. They cannot explore it through ppt notes of information that they can actually discover for themselves. They needed to be engaged in way that encouraged thoughtful discussion, debate, collaboration, research and critical thinking. Kids could care less about what you tell them but will care deeply about what matters to them.
He heard me. He wants to change things and we are working, outside of school hours, on changing the face of his class.
His only question….
What if this new way fails?
Count on it failing in some way but count on the successes that you stand to gain. Like sports, there is a risk of failure but that doesn’t keep you from trying. Your classroom is no different. Your students are more than worth the effort.
(FYI…I did deal with my son because whether we like it or not, we don’t always get to choose the cards that we are dealt. You have to learn to deal and do what is needed to get what you want and need in life. He needed to learn that too. What he did in purposefully ignoring antiquated directives, was still disrespectful. As much as I agree that the teaching in this class was bad, I will ALWAYS hold my children responsible for their actions.)
Also, we did not discuss technology because before you put tech into the equation, you have to fix the bad practices because I think that we all can agree that technology in the hands of a teacher with bad practices does nothing but enhance the bad practices. We’ll get there…eventually.
Edited to add: This story was shared with the full consent of the teacher involved as this is more about his openness to change and less about my decision to speak up about what needed to change.