Apathy: when teachers care more than students about their learning.

Our staffroom today was filled with baffled teachers. Our students, across the board, had us stumped. Every class we had that day had refused to give us anything. They sapped our energy, chatted while we attempted to assist them, and made it impossible to run a class without constant interruptions. Without exaggeration, I had to ask my year 11 class to get their laptops out six times this afternoon, as a group, and then each student individually.

Any group work I issue to year 7, 8, or 11 is not completed unless the groups are given constant assistance, as they see it as an opportunity to talk disrupt others, no matter how the groups are organized. I accept that, with many low ability classes, group work is going to be difficult to introduce. However, my year 10 students, a low literacy class with such a wide variety of behavioural and learning needs, do group work, for the most part, like experts (unless 2 very disruptive students are present).

My other classes seem to need spoon feeding. I agree with, and use, extensive modeling procedures, but these kids actually seem incapable of independent thought. And I know everyone will jump down my throat right about now and tell me things like I need to set more engaging work, but I have tried such a variety of tasks, levels of difficulty, group organization, and technological integration, since the beginning of the term that I am running out of options, and frankly, hope. I dread being a chalk and talk teacher who has to stand out the front the entire lesson and talk.

I am particularly concerned about the apathy and resistance to learning which my year 11s and year 8s show. I know this is experienced right across the school too, and wondering if maybe it is a cohort effect.

Anyone that can offer suggestions or advice on how to get these kids to come to the (figurative) party, please leave a comment or contact me via twitter @LaurenForner – any suggestions welcome!

Why do teachers make life hard for ourselves?

Reflecting upon the lessons I conducted this week with my Yr 9 class, I realised I had staged a mini-experiment (by accident of course!). One lesson was almost completely teacher centred (me feeding them the information) and the other 2 were students contributing and generating much of the information themselves.

Let me tell you, the results of my experiment reveal not only that students were more engaged during the student centred activities, but also that it was much less stressful for me!

Whilst the student centred lessons took twice as long to prepare as the teacher centred ones, during the lesson itself I was much more relaxed, flexible and able to assist the kids who were struggling with the ideas and concepts of shakespeare.

It really begs the question, why do teachers make life difficult for themselves by conducting teacher centred lessons? They have to work harder to get kids on task and enjoying the activities, it gives you much less flexibility to explore issues which arise (because you may not be the expert on those!) and it makes for a state of anxiety during the lesson. Not to mention all the benefits and skills to be gained by students who generate and own their own knowledge.

We are told time and time again to make it student centred because it is better for students learning. While this may be incentive enough for those of us interested in students wellbeing, perhaps we need to rephrase our arguments.

Convincing teachers that student centred lessons equal less anxiety for them might be a way in which we can hook those teachers who have ignored other arguments in favour of student centred learning until now.