Make time for… FRUSTRATION!

My students were frustrated yesterday and today. I let them wallow in it.

This is a good thing.

Yesterday, I started the group on a whole class inquiry challenge with minimal direction from me. Students had to lead their planning discussion while I observed and took notes. This discussion didn’t go very well – especially from the perspective of the two class leaders.

In fact, they left my room a bit angry.

This is a good thing.

Why?

I think I saw this face in my classroom today...

I think I saw this face in my classroom today...

Because they were frustrated with their classmates. They were frustrated with those who were not engaging in the process – those who were not participating. They were frustrated with the complexity of the process and the lack of easy answers from the teacher.

Today, the students came in with a renewed sense of purpose and a desire to collaborate. The discussion was much more productive (even though there was one emotional outburst).

I love to cultivate an healthy level of frustration in my classes. I love to see my students struggle, fail, regroup, and try again. My students need this. So do yours.

Some of the most powerful learning I have seen has occurred when students were frustrated – angry even! – and were able to achieve a breakthrough on their own.

Do I need to step in sometimes? Of course. One of the best lessons that experience is teaching me is exactly when to intervene. Jump in to soon and the student never learns independence and the joy of the epiphany. Wait too long and many students will quit. Usually, though, a teacher’s instinct is to give the kids a boost way too soon.

We all need to learn how to deal with frustration, in school, in work, in life.

image used under cc license from the flickr photostream of MarkKelley

Make time for… conversation

small talk

small talk - from the brilliant xkcd.com

Who does the speaking in your classroom?

When students speak, to whom are they speaking?

When students are talking to each other, what are they talking about?

These are absolutely critical questions. The answers to these questions speak volumes about the level of student engagement in a class.

Who does the speaking in your classroom?

Is it you, or is it the students? If the teacher is the star of the show in their classroom, students are not actively engaging with the content. If students aren’t actively engaging with the content they aren’t learning – at least not with any depth; they aren’t building capacity for transfer. Transfer is the ability to apply learning to new situations, which truly demonstrates ownership of knowledge and depth of understanding.

When students speak, to whom are they speaking?

Are students talking to the teacher or to each other? If student conversation always passes through the teacher-gatekeeper, true discourse is not taking place. Students must be given the opportunity to ask and answer peer questions. The teacher should serve as a passive facilitator (0r even an outside observer) whenever possible.  One great way to get true student-student discourse rolling is with a socratic seminar; another is whiteboarding.

When students are talking to each other, what are they talking about?

When students are talking to each other, are they talking about class content or the latest mind-rotting episode of Jersey Shore? If class content is not engaging or students aren’t afforded time for their curiosity, conversations in your class will quickly veer off task. This is why many teachers hesitate to allow students time for conversation. It is also a great measure of student engagement. Give students a few minutes to talk about your current class topic. Do they talk about it? If not, do they need a more structured conversation protocol, or do you need to revamp your content?

How do you make time for conversation in your classroom?

comic used under cc license from xkcd.com