So we’re now solidly into the second week of school and I am starting to get pretty familiar with my classes. Of course I enjoy each of them in their own way, but I have one class that no matter how much I plan, I always get done early. A couple of the same lessons that I ran out of time on in my other two geometry classes, I actually finished with way too much time to spare; and for a while I was completely befuddled.
I try to do all the hands-on, collaborative, out-of-the-ordinary, enjoyable activities that I can, yet this class always seemed complacent, somewhat talkative, and just uninterested.
Until my last class with them, when I noticed something completely different.
When I turned to write definitions on my smart board, every student instantly hushed their conversation, picked up their pens, and began writing. Not a word was uttered by a student until I had finished giving them all of the definition. I was totally impressed with the class, and thought they had finally turned over a new leaf; until I assigned their next group activity, then the typical hijynx resumed. However, towards the end of class, I handed out a worksheet for the students to complete concerning the day’s activity and the hush once again fell over room 310.
Then it hit me.
These students have been so indoctrinated by our educational system to expect an order of clear-cut definitions with a chaser worksheet, that they don’t know how to think critically. We have robbed these students of their creativity. These students, that I deemed Generation W for worksheet, haven’t had to think critically or creatively about a problem in years and have forgotten how.
This is not the fault of any individual teacher, but instead of a society that emphasizes standardized assessments as the primary measure of student, and often teacher, success. This is a big problem that is hindering our institutions of higher learning, work force, and students in their everyday lives.
To fix this we have to change our emphasis from grades to standards, change shift from worksheets to performance activities, and change from learning by listening to learning by doing. The only way to change the culture of the students is to change the culture of the teachers.