Yesterday I received an email from my department chair informing me (among others) that I had not completed the participation confirmation for my students. (Is that ironic?) These are college students, mind you, college students, and this would be not the first time, but the second time this semester I had to log in to our faculty center and click into each course number that I teach and then click on little boxes next to the student’s name confirming that they were coming to class and participating fully.
Today Only Daughter brought me her social studies test and told me I needed to sign it, even though she had a perfect score.
Any chance these two things are related?
Now I understand, first of all, that she’s in 6th grade, and secondly, that teachers want to know that parents are paying attention, and thirdly, that parents of students who might not be performing as well on tests might be needing to pay more attention to whether homework is getting done, whether the child is studying for tests, etc.
But would it be too much to ask that teachers encourage students who are doing well by showing their trust, and allowing the students the opportunity to be independent and self-disciplined without the constant checks? Last year I had to initial her planner EVERY SINGLE DAY, whether there was something written on that day or not. Is this how we teach independence and self-discipline?
As a teacher myself, with students of all ages from kindergarten to college, the biggest problem I see is that students aren’t invested enough in their own learning. Some of them do the work so as to be able to say they “did the work,” by which they mean “put in the time,” without any attention to whether anything has been learned or accomplished.
Is this really what we want to encourage?
With a couple of students this week I used an example from earlier years, when I would have First or Second Son sweep the floor. They would sweep, the floor would still be dirty, I would tell them “I thought I asked you to sweep the floor” and they would reply, “I did.” I would then have to point out that the purpose of the exercise was not the act (of waving the broom around over the floor) but the result (the floor is now clean).
Second Son is a natural musician. He played percussion in the marching band in middle school, and could ace every test. His best grade, though, was never higher than a low B, because he didn’t practice. I understand that teachers want students to practice, but presumably this is so that they can master their part. I also think that students who practice and who are less naturally skilled should get some boost to their grade if they perform less than perfectly on their playing tests. But if the student can already perform the assigned skills perfectly, why are we requiring that they practice more? Should the teacher maybe at least make the extra effort to give them something that presented a challenge so that the “practicing” wasn’t just a matter of “putting in the time”? What kind of lesson are we really teaching here?
As a piano teacher I never tell a student how long they must practice every day. I do, however, give them clear guidelines in what and how they should be practicing, and an estimate of approximately how long that should take. I then compare what they have accomplished that week with how much time they claim they practiced, and make adjustments. If they are learning everything in less time, I give them more to work on, or make things more difficult. If they are practicing a LOT and not accomplishing much, we either talk about what their practicing looks like to make sure it’s productive time, or I give them less or things that are less difficult.
The point, always, is what we want to accomplish.
I can’t help but wonder if more college-age students would be more self directed and successful if they grew up with people who cared about and were invested in their success, but only watched over their shoulders when there was a real need. I can’t think of anything that encourages independence more than telling a child that you believe they can do it, and then stepping back and letting them.
Maybe it’s just me.