The following account comes from a veteran HS teacher who just became a Coach in her building. Because her experience is so vivid and sobering I have kept her identity anonymous. But nothing she describes is any different than my own experience in sitting in HS classes for long periods of time. And this report of course accords fully with the results of our student surveys. 
I have made a terrible mistake.
I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!
This is the first year I am working in a school but not teaching my own classes; I am the High School Learning Coach, a new position for the school this year. My job is to work with teachers and admins. to improve student learning outcomes.
As part of getting my feet wet, my principal suggested I “be” a student for two days: I was to shadow and complete all the work of a 10th grade student on one day and to do the same for a 12th grade student on another day. My task was to do everything the student was supposed to do: if there was lecture or notes on the board, I copied them as fast I could into my notebook. If there was a Chemistry lab, I did it with my host student. If there was a test, I took it (I passed the Spanish one, but I am certain I failed the business one).
My class schedules for the day
(Note: we have a block schedule; not all classes meet each day):
The schedule that day for the 10th grade student:
7:45 – 9:15: Geometry
9:30 – 10:55: Spanish II
10:55 – 11:40: Lunch
11:45 – 1:10: World History
1:25 – 2:45: Integrated Science
The schedule that day for the 12th grade student:
7:45 – 9:15: Math
9:30 – 10:55: Chemistry
10:55 – 11:40: Lunch
11:45 – 1:10: English
1:25 – 2:45: Business
Key Takeaway #1
Students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting.
I could not believe how tired I was after the first day. I literally sat down the entire day, except for walking to and from classes. We forget as teachers, because we are on our feet a lot – in front of the board, pacing as we speak, circling around the room to check on student work, sitting, standing, kneeling down to chat with a student as she works through a difficult problem…we move a lot.
But students move almost never. And never is exhausting. In every class for four long blocks, the expectation was for us to come in, take our seats, and sit down for the duration of the time. By the end of the day, I could not stop yawning and I was desperate to move or stretch. I couldn’t believe how alert my host student was, because it took a lot of conscious effort for me not to get up and start doing jumping jacks in the middle of Science just to keep my mind and body from slipping into oblivion after so many hours of sitting passively.
I was drained, and not in a good, long, productive-day kind of way. No, it was that icky, lethargic tired feeling. I had planned to go back to my office and jot down some initial notes on the day, but I was so drained I couldn’t do anything that involved mental effort (so instead I watched TV) and I was in bed by 8:30.
If I could go back and change my classes now, I would immediately change the following three things:

  • mandatory stretch halfway through the class
  • put a Nerf basketball hoop on the back of my door and encourage kids to play in the first and final minutes of class
  • build in a hands-on, move-around activity into every single class day. Yes, we would sacrifice some content to do this – that’s fine. I was so tired by the end of the day, I wasn’t absorbing most of the content, so I am not sure my previous method of making kids sit through hour-long, sit-down discussions of the texts was all that effective.

Key Takeaway #2
High School students are sitting passively and listening during approximately 90% of their classes.
Obviously I was only shadowing for two days, but in follow-up interviews with both of my host students, they assured me that the classes I experienced were fairly typical.
In eight periods of high school classes, my host students rarely spoke. Sometimes it was because the teacher was lecturing; sometimes it was because another student was presenting; sometimes it was because another student was called to the board to solve a difficult equation; and sometimes it was because the period was spent taking a test. So, I don’t mean to imply critically that only the teachers droned on while students just sat and took notes. But still, hand in hand with takeaway #1 is this idea that most of the students’ day was spent passively absorbing information.
It was not just the sitting that was draining but that so much of the day was spent absorbing information but not often grappling with it.
I asked my tenth-grade host, Cindy, if she felt like she made important contributions to class or if, when she was absent, the class missed out on the benefit of her knowledge or contributions, and she laughed and said no.
I was struck by this takeaway in particular because it made me realize how little autonomy students have, how little of their learning they are directing or choosing. I felt especially bad about opportunities I had missed in the past in this regard.
If I could go back and change my classes now, I would immediately:

  • Offer brief, blitzkrieg-like mini-lessons with engaging, assessment-for-learning-type activities following directly on their heels (e.g. a ten-minute lecture on Whitman’s life and poetry, followed by small-group work in which teams scour new poems of his for the very themes and notions expressed in the lecture, and then share out or perform some of them to the whole group while everyone takes notes on the findings.)
  • set an egg timer every time I get up to talk and all eyes are on me. When the timer goes off, I am done. End of story. I can go on and on. I love to hear myself talk. I often cannot shut up. This is not really conducive to my students’ learning, however much I might enjoy it.
  • Ask every class to start with students’ Essential Questions or just general questions born of confusion from the previous night’s reading or the previous class’s discussion. I would ask them to come in to class and write them all on the board, and then, as a group, ask them to choose which one we start with and which ones need to be addressed. This is my biggest regret right now – not starting every class this way. I am imagining all the misunderstandings, the engagement, the enthusiasm, the collaborative skills, and the autonomy we missed out on because I didn’t begin every class with fifteen or twenty minutes of this.

Key takeaway #3
You feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long.
I lost count of how many times we were told be quiet and pay attention. It’s normal to do so – teachers have a set amount of time and we need to use it wisely. But in shadowing, throughout the day, you start to feel sorry for the students who are told over and over again to pay attention because you understand part of what they are reacting to is sitting and listening all day. It’s really hard to do, and not something we ask adults to do day in and out. Think back to a multi-day conference or long PD day you had and remember that feeling by the end of the day – that need to just disconnect, break free, go for a run, chat with a friend, or surf the web and catch up on emails. That is how students often feel in our classes, not because we are boring per se but because they have been sitting and listening most of the day already. They have had enough.
In addition, there was a good deal of sarcasm and snark directed at students and I recognized, uncomfortably, how much I myself have engaged in this kind of communication. I would become near apoplectic last year whenever a very challenging class of mine would take a test, and without fail, several students in a row would ask the same question about the test. Each time I would stop the class and address it so everyone could hear it. Nevertheless, a few minutes later a student who had clearly been working his way through the test and not attentive to my announcement would ask the same question again. A few students would laugh along as I made a big show of rolling my eyes and drily stating, “OK, once again, let me explain…”
Of course it feels ridiculous to have to explain the same thing five times, but suddenly, when I was the one taking the tests, I was stressed. I was anxious. I had questions. And if the person teaching answered those questions by rolling their eyes at me, I would never want to ask another question again. I feel a great deal more empathy for students after shadowing, and I realize that sarcasm, impatience, and annoyance are a way of creating a barrier between me and them. They do not help learning.
If I could go back and change my classes now, I would immediately:

  • Dig deep into my personal experience as a parent where I found wells of patience and love I never knew I have, and call upon them more often when dealing with students who have questions. Questions are an invitation to know a student better and create a bond with that student. We can open the door wider or shut if forever, and we may not even realize we have shut it.
  • I would make my personal goal of “no sarcasm” public and ask the students to hold me accountable for it. I could drop money into a jar for each slip and use it to treat the kids to pizza at the end of the year. In this way, I have both helped create a closer bond with them and shared a very real and personal example of goal-setting for them to use a model in their own thinking about goals.
  • I would structure every test or formal activity like the IB exams do – a five-minute reading period in which students can ask all their questions but no one can write until the reading period is finished. This is a simple solution I probably should have tried years ago that would head off a lot (thought, admittedly, not all) of the frustration I felt with constant, repetitive questions.

I have a lot more respect and empathy for students after just one day of being one again. Teachers work hard, but I now think that conscientious students work harder. I worry about the messages we send them as they go to our classes and home to do our assigned work, and my hope is that more teachers who are able will try this shadowing and share their findings with each other and their administrations. This could lead to better “backwards design” from the student experience so that we have more engaged, alert, and balanced students sitting (or standing) in our classes.
Wow. The response to this post has been overwhelming – over 150,000 page hits so far – and over 800 emails to me requesting further info.
So, instead of replying by email, my response and resources I promised can now be found below:
AE Student Survey 2014-15
AE Shadow Student
Survey Letter 2014


287 Responses

  1. One of the best articles I have ever read! Those of us with the big desks and the power do not always fully understand the daily life of our students even after 38 years of reaching. Many thanks for the epiphany and empathy for the kids!

  2. This insight is so helpful. I would love to hear more about the 5 minute read of a test followed by students getting an opportunity to ask ?’s. What kinds of questions would be answered? Content-related or procedural in terms of the test instructions?

  3. I really appreciate reading this sort of empirical research. It reassures me that my sometimes noisy and often active classroom is more likely to produce thinkers and team-workers, than the silent, getting-through-the-curriculum-at-any-cost regimes.
    I came to teaching a bit later than most (40), and my experience in counselling and knowledge of Psychology, as an academic, guides my teaching. I like to think I’m an intuitive teacher, allowing students more choice, more responsibility and opportunities to learn through hands-on, problem solving and group work. I’d go so far as to say that I’m amazed that when people compliment a lesson they’ve observed, that not everyone is doing it like this. Yet, although most people agree that traditional ‘listen and do’, teaching has had its day, most educators aren’t ready to relinquish their control over how learning happens.
    This article will hopefully be another few drips in the bucket of common sense that will enable learning to become more about how and less about what and how much.

    • Totally agree.
      After many years in training maintenance personnel to maintain very large earthmoving equipment electrically and mechanically it was a rude shock “teaching ” Stage 1 Electrical Apprentices.
      Gaining a Degree helped me understand them somewhat more but each new cohort brings new challenges.
      But by involving them and letting them experiment in a controlled i.e. blowing up a resistor is a great way of gaining an understanding of Power and Ohms Law they start to think and take control of their learning.

      • Absolutely, Basdenleco – learning from mistakes, experimenting, getting peer feedback – it’s all pure learning which leads to deeper thinking and problem solving. You just don’t get that from direct instruction in isolation. The
        is a great example of how to let kids discover different ways of problem solving and collaborating. It’s only after observing what the kids can do, that the teacher demonstrates alternative approaches, or invites the kids to decide which method they prefer.

  4. Thanks for the great post. You have clearly identified some of the problems and difficulties that students have in the classroom. I agree that these can only really be seen when experienced from a students prospective.
    I think shadowing students, to do exactly what they do is a must for all administrators. It is now on my to do list.

  5. Great post. Will be sharing this widely. Shadowing for a whole day is such a great idea. Administrators often observe classes are part of a longer day with lots of different activities. I’m embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t given enough thought to what it would be like to follow a student’s schedule for a whole day–to really live a student’s school day. The description of how exhausting it was to be still hit home. I have a very active middle schooler. As a little guy he would just go on all cylinders until he feel asleep–sometimes mid sentence. I couldn’t figure out why my child who rarely napped always seemed on the brink of falling asleep in church. Then it dawned on me–sitting still was absolutely exhausting for him. He would yawn, slump, put his head on my shoulder, and sometimes fall asleep. He couldn’t wait to get moving again. Thanks again for another thought provoking post. On my way to revise upcoming unit and lesson plans with lessons from this post in mind.

  6. Reblogged this on carolynwoulfe and commented:
    This is from Grant Wiggins’ blog, written by an anonymous HS learning coach who shadowed students for two days. It’s an authentic teacher perspective of student experience. It gave me cause for pause.

  7. Thanks for this article. I teach elementary and I think this would be great for elementary teachers as well. We often have our own agendas and forget about the best interest/needs of the children.

    • I agree! I think we try to get kids up and moving more in the primary grades, but rely heavily on sit and listen in the upper grades! I’m a math specialist in a couple of elementary schools and may want to look more at what students are doing during a lesson instead of listening to see if the content that is being taught is correct!!!

      • I taught 2nd grade math and would give a problem of the day to review. I would let kids come up and do the work on the board and see all the different ways the kids got the answer. It was a chance for them to talk and get up.

  8. It’s a very sobering experience isn’t it! I did the same thing some time ago. A pleasant compliant student was turned into an angry and frustrated learner by the end of the day. In fact he was involved in a fight in his last lesson of the day. “We did that” I reported to my colleagues, not just by the teaching, or the lessons, or the planning but by the organisation of the day, the timetable , the lack of transfer time, the reduced “lunch period” , the target setting, the rules about homework and working up to the end of the lesson resulting in rushing to the next. For the most part my comments were ignored.
    If you have the time have a look at this article that touches on the responsibility of leadership in schools to protect the teacher learner relationship.
    As Vanessa said above, hopefully a few more drips in the bucket of common sense.

  9. Wow, this is a fantastic article and a Must Read for all teachers. I believe that we are so busy with the doing that we seldom have a chance to stand back and reflect…… I will be reading and re-reading this article and following up on some of the activities which I have yet to implement. Thank you for sharing,
    Niamh – Ireland – Primary School Teacher

  10. Great insight into a student’s day. We should not be surprised at the few who act out, and should be grateful that there is not a wholesale uprising! Or maybe that would be a good thing.

  11. Spot on!!!! Take that info and apply it to a student with a learning disability and it is 10x worse! (My son) I have been teaching for 25 years and have always had the breaks incorporated within my class periods. Thanks for sharing this!

  12. “It was not just the sitting that was draining but that so much of the day was spent absorbing information but not often grappling with it.”
    Not being able to process new information has got to be the most confounding thing that the live lecture format creates. If I can not slow down or ask questions or try to integrate new information, there is little chance that I will hear the next thing being said. If there is little interaction between the students and teachers, why have a live lecture?
    Teaching and learning happens in application of knowledge. The interactions and the questions are far more useful that the lecture. This is where education should be headed.

  13. Fabulous article and observations. ‘Viewing school through the eyes of the learners” is the only way to truly improve a school.

  14. Would we see different results or different feelings if this was done at a school that didn’t have 90 minute classes in what is commonly called a “block scheduling.” I see part of these observations as an argument AGAINST longer classes.

    • I can assure you, from having done this exercise myself and having charged others to do it, it is no different in traditional 50 minute periods. The chaos of so many classes is worse…

    • In a “traditional” schedule of 45 to 50 minute classes, it’s the bell that enforces more frequent student movement–not instructional design. I’ve found it easier to slip into the mode of information transmission mode in a more traditional schedule.

  15. Reblogged this on Señora Daniel and commented:
    One of my assignments in grad school was to shadow a student for a
    day. It was so insightful; I had forgotten what it felt like to be in school from 8am to 3pm as a student. This post reminds me.

  16. I feel like you’ve re-discovered something important, something most students intuitively know, but can’t articulate, and that most teachers will adamantly deny because they don’t wish to see themselves as complicit:
    The primary goal of education at this level is to teach compliance. The system is structured perfectly to accomplish this. As an added side benefit, some percentage of students learn skills required by business and become compliant workers.
    That said, I respect what you’ve done here, and hope that it will be of benefit to the students you coach. I’ve met very few teachers whose heart wasn’t in the right place, and I can tell you care about your students’ futures. Keep up the great work!

  17. I’m a little surprised she noted nothing about how high school students are zombies; if the first class starts at 7:45AM, then given bus schedules, a lot of those students would have been waking up sometime in the 6AMs.
    > but I was so drained I couldn’t do anything that involved mental effort (so instead I watched TV) and I was in bed by 8:30.
    Now imagine you have a teenage circadian rhythm which doesn’t want to be in bed before midnight…

    • Not to mention sports and evening activities that require the student to stay at school until 8:30–much less getting to bed at that time!

  18. A thought-provoking and powerful post. It is easy to lose sight of those we serve…and the shadowing experience highlights how good intentions often go awry. I know few teachers who set out at the start of the day to impact students in this way; yet many do. How might some time spent self-reflecting and some time spent engaged in authentic conversations with students change teaching for the better?

  19. I laughed when I read this: “…I realize that sarcasm, impatience, and annoyance are a way of creating a barrier between me and them. They do not help learning.” In fact, they don’t help anything. Seems like that should be obvious to anyone who has even one good relationship with another human being, but my experience in school was that very few teachers remembered this, if they ever knew it.

  20. Reblogged this on Musings from the cold and commented:
    For all my teacher friends … try doing this in the primary school you work in and see if you find the same thing. If you’re currently on professional experience placement, you might have more opportunity to do this. It might be very enlightening.

  21. What a fantastic investigation and article! Thank you for sharing and kudos to your administration for creating your new position!! This gives me hope for the school system.

  22. Most kids are bored out of their minds in class, particularly as they move up the grades. They don’t care about they’re learning/doing, they’re just playing the game of school. That’s no surprise. We’ve know it for decades. We just haven’t cared.
    See also

  23. Given takeaway #1: contemplate that what most schools require of the students who has just spent 7 hours sitting compliantly, listening, etc, is to do another 2-4 hours of schoolwork.

  24. This is a great post. As a parent of a teen at a challenging high school, this is such an important issue to address so schools change and bring real engaged learning back into their curriculums. The other piece of this shadowing that is missing from this post is that these real high school students, drained from a busy day at school, still have to go on to an afternoon of sports/drama/extracurriculars etc. and then home to sit and do homework for many hours a night, This teacher went home to sleep at 8:30! The stress levels and pressures about getting into college need to be changed to maintain the health of our next generations….

  25. Thank you. Something so simple as looking at the student perspective in learning shouldn’t be so revolutionary, but I think that often we forget about the other half of the learning puzzle. I am certainly guilty of this – I think we all are. This is a nice reminder.

  26. As someone who struggles with writing, I totally see how teachers just assume competencies that are not there. I also agree that teachers are often so easy to apply one set of standards towards the students (like being late), but totally excuse their own behavior when they (the teachers) are late/talking/forgot something/etc.

    • I teach by modeling good behavior. I NEVER tell students to do as I say, not as I do. You have propagated an inflammatory stereotype.

      • I agree. Not all teachers say do as I say, not as I do. Forgiving mistakes is a matter of respect and integrity. BTW, I do not use a cell phone in any class because neither can my students. But, many of my fellow teachers can’t control themselves just like many of their students.
        Great article! Such a good reminder and a motivator for me. But then you grapple with the fact that students must pass these insufferable standardized tests…

  27. Thinking about takeaway #1…sitting all day is not only exhausting but also bad for your health as many of the ‘stand up for your health’ campaigns will attest to.
    In the past year at my school, our full-time class of young adult students have incorporated ‘stand up’ reminders in their classes. We often get students to conduct small group discussions standing up (no need to ‘sacrifice content’), have everyone get up and have a stretch time between activities, as well as simply to encourage students to stand whenever they need to (often moving to the outside edges of the class). What a difference it has made!

  28. I really enjoyed reading this excellent insight Grant. Thank you. You make so many valid points. I work in teacher education in Finland where we have more and longer breaks (i think you call them recess?) and the students have to go outside and play even in the Finnish winter (there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing). I think there is also plenty of good litertaure on the how learning can be imporved by more physical activity, as well as popular books on the subject like Spark by John Ratey.
    In general I think teachers do not have enough empathy with the life of a student and even though your shadowing is excellent and I think most teachers would benefit from the exercise (and most educational managers) – we are still not living it as they do. What I mean is that we do not have child and teenage worries and world views and even hormones to contend with.
    Thanks for this. I will be sharing it.

  29. Great straw man article. Now everyone can pile even more criticism on the teaching ranks and help Mr. Wiggins continue his profit making “empirical” research. More movement in class helps students. Is this really some kind of discovery? I like to teach critical thinking in my classes and there is very little of it going on in many of the posts I am reading. I and many others in my profession are tired of the teacher as monster student as victim paradigm so often used by educational reformers. I would imagine that this “learning coach” has been relieved of some teaching duties as a result of her new position and finds it helpful to perpetuate this position by throwing her fellow teachers under the bus. I care for my students enough to teach them how to read critically. It seems like some of the people here would benefit from this instruction too.

    • I don’t think this post was directed at you personally and you should not take it as such. The “coach” makes a good point – sometimes we are so focused on the work that we need to do that we lose sight of the fact that students’ active involvement in the learning process is paramount to success. If you are already attuned to this fact, then kudos to you but don’t shoot the messenger. Not a sermon – just a thought

      • I can see where you are coming from, but also note the types of responses in the comments section. The article, from whatever view point it is truly coming from, happens to be fueling an anti-public education/teacher sentiment. This is something that is on the rise and accepted despite ANY evidence to support it.

  30. The quickest way to undermine student trust is through snark and sarcasm. We can discourage learning through humiliation just as quickly as we can inspire it through grace. Thank you for this post it I will be sharing it in our teacher Google Community. (PS a trashcan in the center of the room along with the paper from the recycle box can be just as fun as the Nerf goal and ball:)

  31. Grant – Thanks for sharing that post! I have shared it with the teachers and admin. Regardless of how good we think we are… this is a fantastic reminder about what works and what doesn’t. The best thing about the post is there are at least 10 things teachers can start doing tomorrow and not have to attend a PD course and it will have immediate results on student learning. FANTASTIC!

  32. Being a “Hands On” learner, I found sitting continually exhausting, and often times non- productive. To memorize facts, I would make up flash cards, then go through them as I walked the 2 miles home. Involving my “Physical” helped me absorb and learn. If only the public school system would adhere to the concept that there are 7 ways to learn. Each of us are equipped with two or three of these. We are individuals, so finding a way to incorporate all 7 ways within the class room is difficult, I’m sure. That’s why many very brilliant students fall through the cracks! As for me, I became a Stewardess/Flight Attendant- right up my alley! Hands on, baby! And very little sitting! (Thank God!)

  33. Thanks Grant for sharing this reflection of professional practice. As an administrator who has returned to the classroom this fall for one class a day, I was reminded of how easily I fell into the ineffective practice of teacher-talk and the use of sarcasm when frustrated
    I will be sharing this post with my colleagues as an example of the importance of remaining an honest reflective practitioner as well as the importance of visiting our colleagues’ classrooms.
    Thanks again . . . time to look again at lesson design!

  34. I am surprised you didn’t also go home and do the homework assigned. I don’t think teachers realize that, after a long day, going home to do three to four hours of homework is exhausting and often unnecessary busy work.

    • When I taught, homework was required by administration, and as the person who had to go home after work and phone calls to/from parents, completing the ever increasing number of paperwork (often unnecessary busywork itself) grading all that homework wasn’t exactly a rip roaring good time. Some people pick assignments at random to grade, but I figured if my students did the work, I owe it to them to grade it. Plus I’d like to know how they were doing on their own outside of class on a daily basis (assuming their parents didn’t do their homework.)
      I also agree with a lot of people commenting that nothing here is exactly revolutionary, at least not at the middle school or elementary level. I don’teven remember a lot of lecturing when I was in high school. I also remember teachers being annoyed when we didn’t ask questions, with one exception: a dreadful math teacher my freshman year who talked too fast and would rattle through explanations just as quickly when asked again, and I’m talking fast like that speed talker in the 80s fast.
      Administration’s solution?
      Instead of speaking with the teacher, they dropped me to a lower class.
      In any case, maybe the wounds of adolescence have stuck too closely with me but I don’t know why anyone who has been a student would need to re-experience it in order to empathize. The fact that lectures are boring and put people to sleep shouldn’t be some big revelation, and how could anyone feel comfortable with the job their were doing without observing and evaluating students during actual class time (which means keeping them engaged and actively participating) instead of waiting to see how they did on homework or tests?
      It would be like chefs who cook without tasting their food over the course of preparation.

    • This will train you to be good parents. We work 8 hours and go home and take care of the kids. Cook, make sure you do your homeworks, clean the house.

    • Of course, not all homework is busy work. It really depends on the teacher. I try to be very thoughtful in the work I assign and explain the purpose to the kids. (I have this as a general rule: If I can’t explain a “why,” then I either need to think more deeply about it or cut it out entirely). I’d also agree with Kaneda–homework (thoughtful homework…) is a good practice for time management outside of school and preparing for the next day. Students also have 6 hours of school–they will most likely work 8 or more per day if they have a white-collar job, and need to learn to manage that effectively.
      That being said, it is important to be mindful of homework–I never assign homework for homework’s sake. I want most of the work to be done in the classroom. But it’s not always possible, especially given the massive amount of stuff to cover and the small amount of time to do it in!

  35. Sorry to but in again but I have found my original article that explored the impact of the school environment. Much like Grant’s experience it had a significant impact on my thinking a the time but few of my colleagues recognised the significance. Possibly too caught up in chasing targets and grades and keeping Ofsted at bay. The article looks at the why and how the school environment was created as well as the impact. Although this was posted 13/11/2013 I think it is important we draw together all these examples of how the learning environment we create has a significant impact on teaching and learning and that we need to re think much of what we do and why we do it.

  36. I see so much of what goes on in a high school, as what we are suppose to prepare our elementary school students to do. Hopefully after I share this with my principal, we can make some changes at least in our one school. Thank you for this eye-opening message.

  37. Hmmm– that sounds exactly like MY high school experience many, many years ago. And I made it out, into college, into graduate school, and into a career as a teacher. My peers also did the same- and went to the moon, created the internet, mastered organ transplantations, and so on and so on. When did we decide that education must be entertaining and easy? These are all wonderful ideas, but, once again, puts ALL the pressure on the teacher and none on the student and family. How has this improved our educational standing recently? What I really needed was a way to make education valuable and desired by the students again. It is not that for so many students.

    • I somewhat agree with your response, C. Stephens, but I also know we are living in a very different world now. And seeing what she wrote in this post makes me think – is it right to treat people this way? If you think it is, you keep it up. I, however, know that my teaching has been changing as a result of the buy-in I get from students. If we want more buy-in, more engagement, and thus more learning, I feel we need to change the “typical” high school classroom to include more student-directed learning.

      • We dont live in a different world. We life in a different country, and our country slips further and further behind (haven’t you heard?). We have our inventors and businessmen which is nice that we allow our rebels and thinkers of the world a safe harbor. But seriously, basketball hoops? Cat naps? I wouldn’t send my kids to that school. I want my kids to be competitive in a competitive world. There are countless articles on the net that speak of entitlement and more pressure on the teacher to be an entertainer/civil servant/customer service rep, and these articles have scores of support. This learning coach is another parent who is fighting to get more for less and trying to change education to fit that model. And its not good for our future.

        • Yoyo – I think you misunderstand. Did you know that a 27-minute cat nap in the early afternoon will usually boost your performance for the remainder of the workday by 30%? That is amazing. Yet we have people that keep saying stuff like, “Cat naps? I would never send my kids to that school,” when it is actually that type of outdated thinking that is keeping us uncompetitive.

          • Sorry billybob, I agree about cat naps specifically, but the idea remains the same. Also, can a police officer, janitor, fedex driver etc take a cat nap? What happens when students get used to things in HS that aren’t in the real world? You know, the irony is that if you caught a teacher taking a cat nap, you would demand his resignation. But really I’m trying to point out that many people will have a job where you have to sit all day. Imagine when they start complaining to their boses that they are required to work at their desk? We don’t require student sit alllll day, they get many breaks.

          • No, but their job description by nature engenders them to be more alert naturally because they are constantly moving. I’m talking more about “sitting” and “desk” jobs.
            To be honest, if the teacher had a set time for a 20-minute cat nap during the afternoon that resulted in a more effective learning experience for my kids, I would be all for it. In fact, if we start showing HS kids what it means to learn, and new ways of being effective, then they might actually bring those radical ideas into the workplace! At some point, the old guard gives way to the new generation, and how cool would itbe if the new generation had some tools that worked, instead of doing it “how we’ve always done it” no matter how absurd and ineffective.
            We are actually a very progressive management group at our company, and we do listen to the kids we are recruiting out of college. When they approach us with reasons and proof that doing something different makes them more effective, we listen. And why not, it is in our best interest. And I can emphatically tell you that expectations are still high, and if the kids are screwing around, they will wash out. But the best ones use their tools and opportunities judiciously to make them better programmers, and our company prospers as a result. I understand not all companies are like us, but more and more are every day, especially in the tech world, which is the new economy.

        • Read the biographies of the most successful people in this “competitive world”, and you’ll find that the vast majority of them rejected, or were rejected by, the American school system. Children don’t grow to become leaders by being taught that success is about sitting quietly and doing what you’re told. The fact of the matter is that a teacher’s job is to do what’s best for the student, not to be obeyed, and the US system just can’t grasp that. Personally, I was an incredibly successful student, and I don’t believe that my very typical high school experiences prepared me for success in the business world at all. So to say that it’s not good for our future to have teachers think about what actually helps students succeed is, to me, absurd.

          • I’d also like to add to this that several successful people took naps every single day. I remember reading that Benjamin Franklin insisted on taking a short nap every day after lunch because it kept him going for the rest of the day. As a college student, I have classes in the morning and then I’m done. I come home from class, eat lunch, and take a short nap. I’m good for the rest of the day. If I don’t take a nap, I’m worthless.

    • You may not realize it but your experience included longer lunch breaks, more recess time, and possibly also band, art, etc…which are not the same passive sitting/learning common nowadays.
      I think your comment correctly shows that it’s not the particular teacher/teaching style that is the problem. Teaching class can continue as it always has. Rather, it’s the surrounding lack of time for an intellectual break that must be changed. Give the kids time do play, run, do jumping Jack’s…then they can attend to their classes refreshed.

    • C. Stephens, YOU did find with this style; I did as well. Three things: one, I can’t imagine how much better I would have done had I been taught better. Two, not all students did well with this system; many floundered–you okay with that? Three, done well, this and good UbyD planning puts more onus on the students–they do the heavy lifting of the work and the teacher facilitates.

    • I don’t think the author is saying class has to be entertaining and easy, but it doesn’t have to be boring and irrelevant. Sadly we often teach just the way we were taught. I teach three periods a day – block schedule. Two periods are calculus and one is yearbook – yes, that’s a class. Despite my wonderful AP scores I still like yearbook the best. The kids are learning to run a small business, to produce a product that is supposed to be 100% right, not 80% is good enough, with a real publisher, with real deadlines, and real bills to be paid, and real sales goals. If they need information then they go out and find it. If they need photos, then they go to the photo department, which takes them and edits them. Pages they produce go to student proofreaders (quality control) and bosses, the Editors in chief. I teach them things for about two weeks and then “consult” for the rest of the semester. Maybe I talk 5 minutes a day at most. Grading is by performance reviews. In the end real customers either like or don’t like the product. If I could figure out how to make calculus like that then you can bet I would. Nevertheless, there is usually a “walk around activity.” in calculus. There is always “audience participation.” Rarely is there a class where the kids are not out of seats at some point. Once a year the class does a Lip Sync act for the annual show – we rehearse it in class. Apparently the 2 or 3 hours of class time I lose dancing around doesn’t do much harm since I have the best test scores in the school. When I was in school I sat through 6 hours of boring classes every day just so I could do something useful after school in my extra-curricular activities. (I still graduated 4th in a class of 300.) Now things are worse – all we care about is standized tests. The author missed one point about sitting. Kids take in less oxygen, which causes them to focus less. As a department chair I was once asked to evaluate a teacher in his last year of teaching – before that the administration had done all the evaluating. The guy was so boring that after 25 minutes I wanted to run screaming from the room. Is this the kind of system you want? This may be the best educational article I’ve ever read.

      • Well said. Engagement is not the same thing as entertainment. Being entertained is a passive experience, just like being bored is a passive experience. Engagement comes from being actively involved in producing meaningful work.

      • And look at all the companies now that use the stand up desks or ones with treadmills. SCIENCE says we learn better if we are moving at least every 15-20 minutes.

    • C. Stephens, maybe if your experience engaged you in a more comprehensive manner you may have gone to the moon, invented the internet, or mastered organ transplants like some of your peers 😉

    • Our world has created an entertainment aspect toeverything. Students can’t separate that mentality by stepping foot in a classroom. As a teacher my job is to facilitate learning to students with different learning styles. I also know that I learn best if there is some sort of entertainment (humor, drama, emotion) in a lecture or seminar. Why wouldn’t the students be the same way and why would I throw out that idea of it leaves it all on the teacher to get done?? Because its my job! The job I chose to go to school for. The job I decided to apply for. Im tired of teachers trying to cop out of teaching. in a perfect world mom and dad would sit at the table at night and help students with homework etc…,.but this is not a perfect world . if you understood some of the lives of our students you would know that offering a little bit of entertainment along with a lesson can be the most beneficial learning moment for ALL.

    • Whenever someone says “I made it through the system alright” or something along those lines I recall Eric Jensen’s words in his book Teaching with the Brain in Mind. “First, remember you are the person who survived and made it through school, so you’re not exactly part of a random population sample.” (p.103) He then goes on to say there is plenty we can do to improve learning beyond “sit and git” teaching.
      This isn’t about making learning fun; it’s about making learning more accessible. We have the research that supports what works. We need to use what works, not just what is comfortable, “our style”, easy.

    • Sleeping through a lecture is very easy. It’s not, however, an effective approach to education, even at the college level. Also, at least at the college level, you still meet in smaller groups to discuss the material. It’s not all lecture halls, all the time, at least not in my experience.

    • Sounds like my experience, too, and although I also made it to college and grad school and a successful career, I absolutely hated every day of high school and learned about a tenth of what I probably could have learned.
      It’s not about being entertaining. It’s about understanding psychology and human biology and improving our methods to be more effective and get better results.
      For every person like you or me, how many kids simply give up because they hate school and don’t see any relevance to what they see as their “real lives”?
      And if we simply fall back on, hey, I survived, then why bother with school… why not go back to child labor? After all, Andrew Carnegie did OK.

    • Yeah na. A lot of the stuff you mentioned, that was done by dropouts.
      But look at what kids deal with now when it comes to learning. All the stuff we had plus a heap more.

  38. I have spent the past 12 years teaching financial education camps and programs using what is commonly referred to as accelerated learning techniques.
    These techniques speak to every one of these points and it has been around for a couple of decades now and if you don’t know what it is, and you’re involved in education at any level, you must learn it asap. Here is a link to a page about it’s history.
    I can’t tell you how many students over the years have come up to me and said, “Elisabeth, why don’t ALL teachers teach like you?”.
    I shake my head and say that I honestly don’t know and if I could change it, I would.
    Teaching, which in my book is “inspiring learning in another’ is so simple yet it’s not done correctly in most of our education venues.
    Why? And how do we change it quickly? Our nation’s future depends on it.

  39. I just wanted to say thank you for posting this. I have decided this year to include an activity with every class, and I’m so thankful that there is someone else out there that confirms this is the right thing to do. Thank you!

  40. This really drives home why I loved kindergarten, and why I hated middle school and high school and finally why chose to study early childhood and teach prek-2nd. The rest is just… well, you aren’t needed. When I was in 7th grade I had medical leave for a whole 1/4– and I remember coming back and thinking, wow!, I didn’t miss a thing. I never worked much after that- but still managed As and Bs- lucky I was blessed with a relatively quick mind. Otherwise, those could have been Ds and Fs or is it Es these days. We all need remember students are people with lives and interests.

  41. Lots of accolades have been posted about this experience and, I’m sure, some changes can be incorporated in teaching methods. These were also high school students. What I have found with today’s students, at the elementary level anyway, is that they do not care to pay attention. If you allow them to play for a minute before class, it will take them at least 15 to settle down. That’s taking a substantial chunk out of a 45 minute class.
    Funny how classes have always been conducted this way, less now with the “let’s make it fun” mindset, and students learned at a greater rate than they do now.
    Still, some ideas might be worth at least a try. Maybe something will get through.

    • *Old person voice* Kids these days are the devil, in /my/ day, I used to sit there quietly and never made a sound ever. The fact that they don’t want to pay attention in my boring class can’t possibly be MY fault.

    • Young kids learn through play!! It is very hard for them to sit and listen for 45 minutes. When I was in elementary school, we had TWO recesses which were probably 20 minutes each. My second grader has one recess which is 10-15 minutes. Kindergarten for me involved a lot of play time, role playing, and songs with movement. My son barely had any of that. I’m not blaming the teachers, but administrations and government for not recognizing what would help our students succeed.

  42. What’s more shocking than the number of views this blogpost has received is the numbe educators who are surprised to read the insights gained from the lived experience of high school students. And even still it’s akin to wearing a fat suit and thinking you know what it’s like to be ostracized.

  43. I think many teachers fall back on their default teaching techniques modeled for them by college profs and Teacher Education professionals. The entire system needs to be over-hauled.

    • Studies have shown that teachers do teach the way they were taught, not in college but in K-12. If we want to change the way teaching is done, we need to start right now and keep pushing it for a generation.

    • No one is considering TIME here. Most high school teachers teach 3 preparations. 3 x 180+ days of teaching = 540 lessons to plan with probably about 1-2 days before school starts to do all of this planning. Okay, most teachers have a planning period during the day, but I would venture this planning period is taken up working with individual students, phone calls to home, and grading. High school teachers have a new set of students every period…that means 5-6 periods x 30 students so approximately 150+ students.
      That’s like running a small to medium-size business. And its done without a secretary, clerical help, assistants, a vice-whatever, or a wife to help.
      Does anyone ever wonder if maybe teachers aren’t given the TIME to do their job effectively because the system is trying to get kids through it like widgets on an assembly line??
      I’ve wondered….

  44. My original plan for todays class went out the window. Consolidation of content moved from 80mins of a shared google doc (which I though was pretty interesting) to an active class room which included team work, limited chairs, and a lot of discussions and further insight into the topic. On behalf of my 20 kids- thanks!

  45. This is a fantastic article. I do hope more educators read and absorb this information. It’s been 20 years since I graduated from HS, but reading this article brought me right back to sitting in just about every class I ever had…sitting there, desperately trying to stay awake, fidgeting in my seat, chewing my pencils and my fingers. In hindsight, it’s no wonder why I became a scientist…the one subject where students are engaging in lab work, on their feet, working together, running experiments. There was one other course, my senior year, an experimental math class. The teacher formed the class into small groups and we taught each other the material, we were given math problems to solve together and math problems to present to the class. It was engaging and thought provoking. I went to school during a time when there were no block classes, class lasted for 45 minutes. I can’t imagine how excruciating it must be for today’s students to sit in the same classroom, at the same desk for 1.5 hours. Kudos to the educator that took the time to outline how classrooms can be made more productive and engaging.

  46. Great post! There’s an educational approach designed by Sharon Bowman called ‘teaching from the back of the room’ that addresses all (and more) you’ve experienced, and gives ver concrete examples and techniques of how to do better.

  47. Grant, why didn’t you visit a class in the arts? We move. We talk. We do. We learn.
    I give my visual arts students a 10 minute break half way through our 90 minute block. They stretch their legs, eat and drink, and check out the work of their peers. They ask for, and give feedback.
    Try a class in the arts next time. It’s a great place to be!

  48. This is a great article, and I’m very happy to see someone advocate for students and how they learn. I must disagree with you however on one main point. Teachers are only doing what is being demanded of them by the state. Real change for students will come when you redirect your observations to the bloated bureaucracies of federal and state governments. Let’s not forget the style of education that is in vogue right now, common core. One of the guiding mandates of this particular philosophy is more “on-task” time. In a nutshell, this means that teachers are being told by the state and the federal government that students should spend less time “doing”, which I think is the very valid point of this article, and more time “sitting and listening”, which is the exact opposite of your observations. Please redirect your complaints and observations to people like secretary of education, Arne Duncan and the CEOs of McGraw-Hill and Pearson. He believes that K-5 students should have an hour and a half of English Language Arts per day. Can you imagine how a kindergartener feels sitting still for an hour and a half?

    • I teach Common Core Geometry which is very hands on and active. No one, including the state or federal government, has told me HOW to teach. The state has only told me WHAT to teach through the listed objectives as they always have. The objectives just have a new name (CCSS) but the state has long mandated a set of objectives. CCSS does not describe a method of instruction.

    • To echo Grant’s thoughts. This has been going on for decades. In Public and Private schools. Through the open school movement. Through whole language and phonics. Through new math and old math. Through NCLB and CC. I hate to go all Larry Cuban on this, but these structures and routines of school are amazingly stable across all types of schools, no matter the setting, socioeconomic status, funding or reform movement. To blame the current political/economic environment is very short sighted if you look at the 100+ year history of American schooling.

      • The best comment of them all, IMHO. This is the mystery of failed reform; this is the challenge we must all set ourselves – to better understand the utter imperviousness of reform attempts.

      • And there lies the crux of the problem; the 100+ year history of American schooling. School in America was never designed to output intelligent, well rounded critical thinkers who could advance through and contribute to society on the merits of their knowledge. It was made to create industry-ready workers who could follow directions and complete repetitive tasks with little supervision.
        Despite the evolution of our childrens’ education needs over the years, and a significantly greater understanding of developmentally apropriate learning and brain development, the fundamental structure of the American education system hasn’t changed.

  49. So insightful and powerful to discover. Our brain needs to engage and change scenery, and move to a rhythm that keeps us thinking. And, fresh air too. I remember loving the classes that took me outdoors occasionally, and wishing they’d do that often.

  50. Reblogged this on My Teaching Gig and commented:
    A brilliant look at the life of a student – it reminds teachers that it just isn’t about the single experience of your classroom, but the overall experience of our educational system.

  51. Great post! Question (and, I apologize if it was already asked): I wonder if this teacher got a sense for the amount of homework this shadow student was asked to do that night. Sometimes I wonder how kids survive, with after school activities AND a mound of homework to get done, often with no time during the school day for this. Also, sometimes teachers live in their own bubble & forget that these kids have 5-6 other classes they are also doing work for at home.

    • I cut out her comments about homework – she was so tired she could not imagine it. She also interviewed the 2 kids about it. In my followup I’ll provide more info and context.

  52. I am surprised by all of the surprise. What the author relates is exactly what I experienced in most of my high school classes. I had it worse, though. I had six classes every day and no free periods. Teachers must romanticize their experiences, blocking out the monotony of the routine they, in fact, experienced, focusing on particular teachers and other valuable relationships. Why else would we enter back into that world. Perhaps, because we think (naively) that we can make a difference. We can’t really claim that we are just now realizing that students sit all day, are told to behave, feel like a nuisance, and have home work to do. This model has been around for a long, long time, and the vast majority of adults experienced it first hand.

  53. Key Takeaway #1
    Explain to me why teachers and administrators need a learning coach? Learning is a function of what the student does to learn. Administrators can influence the environment to support learning….teachers can influence the classroom to support learning….but…..let me make this completely clear…BUT….teachers and administrators do not learn for the student. Students have to do that themselves….they have to do the work….they have to listen….they have to control themselves, and their minds to learn.
    Key Takeaway #2
    School schedules are ruled by high-stakes testing and sports. I sat on a committee at my high school looking at the research on school schedules vs. student achievement in order to effect change. Every suggestion was handed back to us with for the following reasons:
    -we cannot change the school bus schedules
    -students have to be in math, science, english, social studies classes for a set number of minutes a day….state mandated
    -we cannot move practices because of team practices
    -standardized test dates cannot be changed
    Key Takeaway #3
    Students use to move and get exercise during the day…it was called P.E. Politicians and state officials took that away to focus on high-stakes tests.
    Also, you do realize that millions of teenagers sit for more hours of the day engrossed on their phones, texting, instagraming, facebooking, and playing games and are doing so without being forced? Society as a whole is passive…its not just school.
    Key Takeaway #4
    Listening to a lecture is a valid way of learning. We need to stop villianizing the lecture.
    Key Takeaway #5
    Your two days was a snap-shot, just a drop in the bucket compared to 180+ days of schooling. It is unrealistic to make judgements based on so short of a time period.
    Let’s stop victimizing students and villianizing teachers and administrators. Do you want to see student achievement rise???
    Give students back the control over their own learning! Let’s put out the message that students have control over their own minds….if they’re bored….THEY change it! They start listening, they start plugging in, they start processing what their hearing and ask questions to spur on a discussion. Tuning out is not a condition which is forced on us….we decide to tune out, and we can decide to tune in.
    We need to stop giving students the excuses as to why they are not learning:
    “That teacher is boring”
    “The class is too long”
    “The material is too hard”
    “She/he doesn’t like me”
    “I just can’t concentrate”
    We have to stop trying to make our education system a utopia, because we are messing it up in the process. We can never make it perfect for everyone. Its time students and parents did their part and stepped up to the plate of the educational process.

      • My freshmen science teacher just sat at her desk and talked basically about what was in the textbook. Was she a good teacher? No. But guess what? I still learned. Learning is under my control, not anyone else’s. I can learn from a lecture, as well as a lab, a project, a video, a research paper, a group collaboration….I could go on.
        Wouldn’t it be nice if all our students thought this way? Instead we’re giving them excuses for not learning.

        • Good for you. But, given a choice, would you rather have a boring, mundane, monotone teacher who lectured 80 minutes every single day, or would you rather have one that used variety, object lessons, discussions, hands-on, etc. in addition to lectures? If the latter, then what in the world are you arguing against? If you can give teachers tools and ideas to help make the classroom even more conducive to learning, why in the world wouldn’t you?
          This has nothing to do with excuses, and everything to do with being passionate about what you do for a living.
          In my workplace my engineers are required to put out X number of programs every week. We have found that if we give them breaks, air hockey, foosball, and no restrictions on internet usage, their production is *much higher*!! So, I could sit there like a stick-in-the-mud and say, “Kids these days, just don’t know how to sit all day and program.” Or, I could use the tools at my disposal to increase production and make everyone’s day more enjoyable at the same time! I know, what a crazy concept.

          • I love a fun class. We all do. The issue is that it seems student and parents now have the ability to say “well, my kid has a boring teacher and that’s why they aren’t doing well” when people post articles like this one. I would love a school with all of the best teachers in a district, but demanding it just reeks of entitlement. Which school get the average teachers? Did you know that the word average means to imply the grand majority of. I know I’m totally off topic here, and the idea of the learning coach is great. I just fear that the the institution of learning coaches all over the country would cause a whole new set of problems. the real solution has always been the same. I see hard working motivated and dedicated students are creating a more pronounced learning gap as the other students (and their parents) are wasting time chanting “what can you do for me?”

          • I’m a teacher. I’ve been one for almost 20 years, both at the high school level and in higher education. In the public school system, in high school, I saw way too many kids coming to class with a mindset of “Teach me, I dare you,” and gave nothing to their education, and it didn’t matter what I did in the classroom, they were not going to learn.
            I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “No offense, I like you as a teacher, I’m just not going to do this.”
            Then I would be called on to justify why “I failed” the student.
            We’ve hijacked responsibility for learning from students, and put it on the teacher, and I can tell you it is crippling our young people. I teach at a prestigious, private university where the standards to get in are high, and I’m still seeing kids that do not want to do the work to learn.
            Spoiling children is an insidious form of child abuse….
            So is not expecting them to work for their education. I write this because I care, I care that we are coddling our future generations and not allowing them to fully develop.

  54. I love the idea about having the question period before the test but do you let them look through the test or is it just questions about the test format?

  55. Reblogged this on Lisa Williams ~ Lessons from the Classroom and Beyond and commented:
    This is the most eye-opening article I have read in a long time. Not that I wasn’t aware of how much students sit all day, how little they are asked to share their opinions, etc., and how exhausted they must feel at the end of the day, but this teachers expresses so clearly the disservice we are doing to our students… sometimes without even realizing it. A must read for any current teacher… there is still time to change.

  56. I taught physical education for 40 years, and I noticed that both of her schedules DID NOT include physical education, which would have helped with some of what she was talking about……students should have physical education at least every other day, all year long, and all through school grades K-12.

  57. So we all went to school, we all did the same, made it through and now work, some of us in jobs we love..some in jobs they hate. it is not always exciting…maybe never exciting….school prepares you for the real world. Suck it up. We have become a nation of catering to kids and oh poor me. I don’t agree with 3 hours of homework…one would do as long as it is challenging. Students need to be challenged to keep from being bored. They do not need easier….that prepares them for nothing!

    • aka “Let’s do bad things to kids in school because bad things may happen to them later in life?”
      Instead of blithely accepting a ‘life is bleak’ worldview, maybe we can work toward something better? And, yes, that might start with how we think about and do school.

      • Where does it stop though? What is school going to have to look like before we say, “Hey! We finally got it right?” And, who or what determines its right?
        We provide transportation
        We provide free meals
        We provide technology
        We accommodate
        We provide special needs personnel
        We provide tutors
        We’ve been reforming teaching methods since the 80’s
        Why isn’t it fixed yet? Why are we still broken?

          • The things mentioned do prepare the students for the opportunity to learn. Don’t get me wrong, I like making use of time for movement, etc., but expectations should be high for our children. We need times for moving and learning as well as sitting still and learning. There are occasions when we must be able to sit for a period of time (20 minutes) and still be engaged.
            Teachers should not be blamed for ALL student disengagement in our schools.

    • Good grief, I can’t comprehend the “suck it up” comments like this that simply refuse to admit the obvious. This has nothing to do with making it easier. It has everything to do with creating a learning environment. Don’t we want kids to learn?
      In college I had a Physics professor that was really hard. But, we all loved his class. Why? Awesome labs. And really, really cool live demonstrations of physical concepts. He could have lectured all day, I wouldn’t remember a thing. But his class was one of my toughest, but also one of my favorites. And all because the teacher was passionate about his subject, and passionate about presenting it in a way that stuck. What is so hard to understand about this?

      • You had a master teacher! What he did was outstanding, and I’m not saying that teachers shouldn’t strive to do exactly what he did. But, I bet he still had students who failed. Why? Because despite his absolute best practices at setting up a learning environment that helped student achieve, some still failed. Probably because they didn’t do what was expected of them.
        As to your previous response…
        I use technology in teaching all the time, almost everyday. I use student clickers for in-class interactive quizzes and polls, and its part of the teaching/learning process. And that’s just one example. Accommodations are part of teaching…I adapt lesson plans to accommodate special needs/gifted students/learning styles all the time. I consult with special ed teachers and counselors to help students if they’re not doing well. I pair up excelling students with struggling students for tutoring. I’ve gone to thousands of hours of professional development in the last 20 years and implemented new methods of teaching just to help students achieve. Except for the transportation and free meals, all of it relates to teaching.
        Teachers should do all they can to help students succeed, but we are only one part of the recipe that works.
        Student success in school is influenced by:
        The school environment which includes the teachers and the administration
        Their parents
        Their own motivation and initiative
        All the accountability reform in the last 20 years has focused on teachers and administrators. I’m saying we are leaving out two important parts of the complete picture. We need to hold parents and students accountable as well.

      • I understand you had some bad experiences, but Im with unheardofwriter. Been a science teacher for almost two decades myself. We’ve been reforming for that long. You had an awesome physics professor… great! I currently have a cardboard box full of cards and drawings and thank yous from kids who praise what I do. I have labs, demos, group projects, technology, modifications, meetings, a humorous way of teaching etc. But my stance on the topic remains the same. Students are using the vocabulary they hear from reformers to make excuses for not succeeding. NO ONE will ever be able to admit that it was THEIR lack of so and so that caused them to fail in a class. Its easier to pick a few key terms “he was sarcastic, he’s a bully, he stands and lectures, he doesn’t care about special ed, they didn’t meet my needs.”
        I dont mind having a civil debate about education and learning more things to make teaching better… but when you lob snarky comments like “What is so hard to understand about this?” it just makes hope I dont have anyone like you in my class. Despite the hundreds of accolades in my box and countless hours of professional development (that I take seriously), there is always someone who didn’t meet my scholastic expectations, despite constant effort to reach everyone. And when mom or dad asks, “why didn’t you succeed in that class?” you will never hear a *teenager* say “I didn’t want to succeed.” Ive been accused by teenagers of doing a bad job, but when I sit in a room with mom, admin and student… they never have a leg to stand on. I am trained professional, I take my job seriously, this is my career, I love what I do and there are thousands of teachers just like me who do solid work and better.
        Its time that you trust who the state has paid to do this job. Just like you trust a contractor, dentist, lawyer. And if you aren’t getting what you need because you are different, then fine, do homeschool, charter school whatever. But dont insult an entire industry.

        • THANK YOU YOYO!! We need to stop laying all the blame on teachers. I teach at the university level now after 18 years in high school. Once of my students today was dressed up and I asked if she had a presentation in one of her classes. She stated today was the day she went to one of the local high schools to teach nutrition to expecting teenage mothers. I asked if she was interested in teaching. She said no, this was a service program through her church. I asked how things were going, and she stated (I quote), “It’s going fine, but you know, I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how good I teach, some students just do not want to learn.”

  58. Great article and insights – I think it’s amazing that your school has a teaching coach, you were obviously the right choice! My immediate takeaway – why is school starting so early? You’re leaving teen-age kids unsupervised in the afternoon?? That can’t be good.

    • Exactly. If schools keep deionizing teachers and producing lazy children who would rather sit for 6 hours texting but not learning how to focus and make it in the real world, I guess I’ll home school too!

      • Schools don’t produce lazy children, parents do. Not sure why there is so much resentment at some simple changes that can make learning challenging, engaging, and even fun at the same time. These are not mutually exclusive concepts, nor is creating an environment that is conducive to learning mutually exclusive to preparing our kids for the real world.
        As a professional in the software world (where the job description consists mostly of sitting at a desk programming all day), I want candidates that are active learners, participators, and know how to take a break in order to prepare their minds for continued work throughout the day.
        Apparently it needs to be restated that children are still just children, not adults, and therefore to have the same expectations for a 14-year old that we have for a 25-year old is beyond ridiculous.

  59. Thank You For putting This Out For All Eyes. I Plan To Forward This To My Son Who Has Three Boys In Ninth Grade.

  60. I am confused by the If I could go back and teach I would immediately… I get the feeling that this teacher has been asked to be a coach because she is held in high esteem(probably because of the results she got before this ahha moment).I have taught mathematics for 20 years and have been a HS athletics coach for the same. I don’t believe my courses are boring or passive, but I can see that some teacher’s classes are. In that regard, I agree with lots of the suggestions.
    On the other hand, I agree with those who post about the seeming quasi-needed reform to become caterers, entertainers and providers of entitlements. I am not a believer that the students do not have a responsibility to engage, bored or tired or not.
    These suggestions would carry more weight with me if they weren’t from a former teacher who has suggestions for the rest of us that they haven’t tried themselves. Just would if they could and we should immediately. Go back to the classroom and apply these suggestions and see what kind of results you get, what kind of work it takes, etc. You would build up a valid understanding of what a day in the life of a more effective teacher would be all about.

  61. Reblogged this on My Wired Life and commented:
    This is a fascinating article. It is sobering, and as a parent, makes me incredibly sad. The comments are, as all comments are, mixed. Some make me furious, some are insightful.
    To those commenters who blame the students for not learning, I ask you to talk to students. Those students in your class who “don’t care” may actually have serious issues at home, have a learning disability or mental health issues, or a myriad of other issues that interfere with learning. Or, maybe, one too many teachers rolled their eyes at them, and the kids no longer feel valued. I hope my kids never have you for a teacher.
    I happen to be a parent of one of these kids. She is intelligent, creative, thoughtful and caring. She started school as an enthusiastic student. She will hopefully graduate this year, but she is a different person after being part of the factory school system that rewarded rote memorization over creative analysis. She had ADHD and works 10 times as hard as other students to maintain interest in topics that are not naturally interesting to her. Do not blame her for not being interested in every subject in school. I bet you weren’t either, and that’s why we – as adults – choose to be attorneys or scientists. We don’t study everything.
    To those who support lectures, I hope you realize that the world has changed. While some lecture is still valuable, our entire world has shifted to a far more visual place. We access information differently. We process information differently. And that’s ok. It doesn’t all have to be the same as it was 20, 30, 60 years ago in order to be valuable. How dare you say you can teach if you are unwilling to learn new things?
    After watching our daughter hammered down by a school system that does not reward her learning style, we purposefully chose a different school for my son. His class periods are long, but he says he never, ever sits for the whole time. He never goes a class period without interacting (verbally or physically) with the teacher and other students. His school builds in daily opportunities for students to move around the building and engage in learning other than classroom. He is given ample time to complete homework in school, and rarely has more than an hour of work at night. This means he can continue with his outside interests, which includes singing, composing/arranging music, piano, and reptiles. His learning at home is as valuable as his learning at school, and school supports this.

    • I’m sorry you had a difficult situation, but you can’t discount the educational system because it didn’t happen to fit your specific needs. You feel that the school should have been different just for you, and send the message they are victims of aweful uncaring administrators and teachers. I have ADHD, and my parents and teachers said “do the best you can, work and don’t make excuses.” I didn’t flinch at the “hammer,” I became the hammer. I graduated with almost a 4.0.

  62. The life of high schooler is easiest IN the school. The hard part comes after 2pm- balancing sports, homework, social expectations and family obligations. Their real work begins after the teachers release them!

  63. I agree with your suggestions re: no sarcasm and students should be engaged in the material and spend less time in passive listening. However, not having been in high school in 30 years yet remembering it very clearly, I was shocked by two things: Your students seem to be way behind–I took Chemistry in 11th grade and Geometry in 8th grade!–and I do not remember getting “tired from sitting.” Bored, maybe, but never tired. We had to walk from class to class and had 6 periods a day, plus I walked home from school and often to school as well! I’m sorry, but I got a picture in my head of out-of-shape and not-very-sharp students from this account. Has high school and its students declined that much??

    • And if we keep going down this road, we WILL end up with a whole society of out-of-shape and not-very-sharp students. Oh wait, it’s already started.

    • Maybe that had more to do with the fact you walked to and from school. It is such a great way to start and finish the school day, really gets the blood flowing.
      Now think of the number of students who take a bus to school or are driven by parents. It is not unusual for students to spend an hour each way sitting in a bus. Yet another chance for them to sit still and behave.
      As an adult I have attended day courses. The best presenters recognise when they are loosing their students attention and change up what the are doing. Break early for morning tea or lunch. Everyone stand up and stretch, 5 mins talk to the people around you. Group discussion on what has just been covered before going onto new material.
      Why do we expect students to do things that as adults we don’t do. For the majority of my working life I have had a desk job. In between tasks or when my concentration was slipping no one was there telling me I couldn’t get up and walk around. I interacted and chatted with other people a lot more often than what students do in school when their time is scheduled by someone else. Even in an open plan office I could send messages or talk with others quietly.
      What this teacher experienced shadowing two students reminds me of my own high school experience and was a strong motivator to home school my own children. No one asked me if I wanted to be at school. No surprise most common comment on my reports was ‘could do better’

  64. We were noticing our right brained kid struggling with traditional teaching methods, like you mentioned, so we enrolled her in The Reid School where they teach using a method called ECRI developed by Dr. Reid herself. They teach using all 6 sense and the kids and teachers are actively involved throughout the entire day. In 6 short months our daughter jumped 2 grade levels, loved going to school and her confidence soared. Best decision we ever made. Wish more schools would understand this and do something different.

  65. This sounds like my elementary, junior high and high school as well as most of my college classes. My second degree was at Penn State for a BSLA and we had a lot of time spent in the drawing room and could take breaks, walk, get coffee, etc., but did spend a lot of time after class and at night finishing work. But that was better than sitting for long periods taking notes and listening to lectures. I hope things have changed.

  66. Socio-economic status is the most important determiner of educational success in a country driven by greed and capitalism.Homeschooling and other private options are not available for parents who are working two $12.00/hour jobs. The well-heeled parents can afford tutoring and private schools that concentrate on their children’s specific learning needs. What about the majority of people in this country? Public schools try to offer a valuable service to the populace but will never be able to deliver the individualized attention so many parents want for their children because of the sheer number of students involved and this society’s unwillingness to pay for a system that could handle this enormous task. Many of the people complaining about the state of public education would rather spend $500.00 on a cell phone than an extra $100.00 in taxes to support smaller classroom environments that would be more responsive to individual student needs. Special Education costs are astronomical in some districts and often inhibit hiring of regular education teachers who could help to alleviate some of the stress felt by those currently in the teaching ranks. As a teacher, I feel like banging my head against a concrete wall every time someone accuses me of not being innovative or being lost in some dread version of the past because they couldn’t possibly perceive me as having empathy for students. All you have proven is that you have no empathy for teachers and no understanding of how complex this issue is for us. Stop being so myopic! We are real people not automatons.

    • You got it right Jim. We DO work hard to reform. Have been for years. It’s a FACT that teachers work everyday to grow and follow trends…Admin pushes for change and staff use innovation every day…Education HAS been changing and changes all the time for the needs and wants of others. But the problem is really “research” and articles written by people who stand to gain value from finding problems with our teachers. did the author of this article stand to gain any monetary benefit from taking this position? The last learning coach I met made $125k for that position. DOUBLE the teacher salary. It was a huge benefit for him to find problems with teaching practices. And even if we need to make changes, I’m starting to get students who are lazy and entitled and the best shortcut to getting what he/she wants is to use the vocabulary learned from reformers. “Well I don’t do my homework because my teachers lectures, and that modality comes to a great detriment to my education, so as soon as my lazy teacher uses more advanced educational techniques I won’t be doing my work.” And the parents shockingly enough are like “omg, just like that Facebook post I read. I’ll call the principle right away and demand change from this horribly corrupt educational system”. As I mentioned before, truly motivated students are laughing at those other students all the way to college. And then parting ways…

  67. Your school seems to have unusually long instructional periods. Anybody would have trouble sitting still for 90+ minutes…5 times a day! That’s rough…it was tough for adults to do it when I had sessions of that length in college.

  68. Thank you for this. I was always told how bright and smart I was, despite barely graduating high school on time and having gone to five universities with failing results. As it turned out, I was diagnosed with ADHD-I at 23 and Asperger Syndrome at 28. It validated so much of the troubles in my life, and in particular my troubles in school, which follow very closely what you’ve had to say here. I have discussed all of these issues with various people in one way or another over the years, but pretty much have been told that I either need to try harder or adapt myself to how education is presented.
    Basically, I’ve never had the credentials to be taken seriously about what I’ve perceived to be problems in the educational process, and it’s truly relieving to hear someone who does say the same things.

  69. I understand the concerns with sitting all day -especially with childhood obesity on the rise- but the students are trained to this from a very young age. I’m not saying I AGREE with that training, but I think the teacher’s experience was skewed by her own routine. I worked retail for 3 years and was constantly on my feet. When I switched jobs to working in a call center I was constantly sitting. For the first 3 months the inactivity (literally attached to your desk) made me feel like I was going stir-crazy and was so antsy, but like everything else, I adjusted and sitting became the norm. Kids are taught in grade school to sit quietly and pay attention so by high school this is the norm. Most kids have enough trouble ‘changing gears’ from one subject to the next without getting riled up with exercise routines too. I would say that the smarter choice would be to add some kind of exercise in to lunch or the end of the day rather than the start of every class. Of course, if you have more kinetic kids that have trouble sitting, a quick walk in the hallway might help with distractibility, but that would depend on the kid/class.
    As for input from students, I would make sure that you aren’t putting people on the spot. In every group there are a few shy kids and forcing them to interact is useless. One of my fave teachers just had 10 minutes at the end of his class for any questions. If you didn’t have any, you could start on your homework instead. Sometimes excellent discussions started and then were continued the next day.
    As for feeling like a nuisance, unfortunately this is something a person will experience in other areas of life, like a future career. I don’t think students should be belittled or feel put-down by asking questions all day (any teacher doing this is clearly burnt out or not right for the job). But a little exasperation is not something to live in fear of expressing. Especially if the question is asked because the student was too busy texting to pay attention.

  70. Reblogged this on Save Our Schools NZ and commented:
    Should all teachers be encouraged to “be a student for a day” to see what it is like on the other side of the coin? I think the idea has a lot of merit.
    “I have a lot more respect and empathy for students after just one day of being one again. Teachers work hard, but I now think that conscientious students work harder. I worry about the messages we send them as they go to our classes and home to do our assigned work, and my hope is that more teachers who are able will try this shadowing and share their findings with each other and their administrations. This could lead to better “backwards design” from the student experience so that we have more engaged, alert, and balanced students sitting (or standing) in our classes.”

  71. Bless you. These are all the exact reasons I’ve chosen to homeschool my children. I was so happy to read this, to see an educator “get it” I literally cried.

  72. Warning…this is a long post! And you might think it’s a rant but it’s not. It’s a PLEA.
    I had to remove my child from the school system and homeschool partly because of this very thing. I think most Home Schoolers feel the same way, though I am not speaking for all of them by any means.
    My point is that our school systems are not designed to teach kids who learn in a different way, and sadly it’s always been that way. It’s been the same since the beginning of schooling..everyone must sit, face forward and listen or take notes and then do the same when they get home with their books. That works just fine for the student who learns by hearing or reading. They excel in this and receive the best grades. Hmm. Why? I notice even some commenters can’t understand why they themselves and others could do it back in the day but kids nowadays can’t. My reply is that we all can remember–back in the day– the kids who were held back or had tutors after school, and were certainly labeled as stupid or flunked out/quit. Right? They also couldn’t sit still and would get into trouble and be sent to the principal’s office often. The ‘listeners’ or auditory learners excelled in learning because that was how they learned, and still do, BUT there’s so much more we understand now and to not notice that everyone is not an auditory learner like them is very close minded.
    Over the years there’s been some progress with visual learners as they’ve introduced watching videos in class, lots of picture books, and using computers and games. They can still sit facing front and watch something quietly. However, there is a whole other group that is left out and through no fault of their own–the kinesthetic learner. They are VERY bright students but must either use their hands, or stand working at a board, or move around and manipulate objects. Google the term if you don’t know it. It’s just a different way they process the information for understanding. They are hands on! They also like to talk to themselves as they think a problem through or have a background noise to help them concentrate. Some need total silence but not them. They aren’t learning impaired at all. They don’t need ‘special ed’ teachers, they just learn in a different way–like you, the auditory or visual learner. Kindergarten used to be good for them but not anymore. It’s now sit and hear! I’m sickened by this change.
    Can you see how our schools do not accommodate their kind of learning? Reading through some of the comments here I noticed that some really enjoyed their science classes the most because they were hands on and very visual or kinesthetic (hands on). They got to manipulate and figure out how something works by talking and using the objects to figure it out. Some could even talk with others to solve things in a group. Very few classes across the country, if any, offer these kids this kind of experience in-ALL-subjects. WHY NOT? (No, my child was not in this group. I expected my child to need to slow down to learn at his/her pace but that was not the case at all. My child needed to be free to go at his/her own pace and it was faster!!! I was surprised since I expected it would be slower.)
    Instead, the powers that choose the courses feel the need to push details of things that will never matter in a student’s life, like who the dissenting judges of the Supreme Court were in cases from the 1800-1900s..REALLY?? .. and forcing students to learn a foreign languages with useless phrases and grammar they will never use outside of HS. The don’t even speak proper ENGLISH but they MUST take a Spanish or French class for two+ years for ‘credit’ to graduate? Why does that NOT strike you as odd? Then they push these kids through without knowing things they really need to know for life–like how to manage money, taxes, the economic system and how it affect them, etc. Seems more like they are trying to boost their own egos with what they ‘offer to teach’ in the way of curriculum rather than trying to actually teach relevant material in a way that kids can actually learn it. MAYBE PARENTS SHOULD QUESTION THAT.
    Instead most students are dealing with teachers who don’t care anymore and are just waiting for retirement (a couple of teachers in my town actually said this!), or younger ones who lack control of their classrooms because of challenging students trying to show off and be the tough one. (Some kids have been abused by their parents before classes and are acting out in anger. Kids can’t just turn that stuff off when they get off the bus and sit facing front doing what is expected of them. They are dealing with serious emotional issues and need an outlet. A wise teacher/counselor should know how to respond.) But, it’s all now controlled by the govt so what do you expect?
    I know there is no perfect teacher and dealing with emotional students is tough, but when so much of the material students must ‘learn’ but never use for real life (yes, they know it!) is taking up their ‘learning’ time, you have to wonder why. Especially as a teacher. Where is your outrage of student care?????
    I ask: Why are we NOT trying to teach so kids actually learn and want to keep learning?? WHY? My child was not this kind of learner but I see it from many others.
    While in school my child had to deal with the hurting kids and the raging teachers and couldn’t focus at all. How many students don’t have the option of getting out of that cage? I wish I had the power to help them! Maybe some of you teachers do. Please stop your colleagues from destroying so many bright students. Change the system to reach ALL learning types!! Stop with the PC crap and teach to how they learn.
    Do you want to see test scores soar? Do you want to be teacher/principal of the year? Yeah. Actually teach..which means BE the auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and any other type of instructor our kids need in each of your classes! I guarantee you have at least one of each type of learner in your line of vision every day!! Do you call yourself a teacher? Do you teach to each type of learner? If not, you are not a real teacher. Sorry. Thems the facts. A teacher tries to reach everyone in every possible way.
    You may not have learned to be a teacher in every way possible, but if you can’t learn how to teach everyone, how can you teach everyone? How can they be stretched to learn if you are unwilling to be stretched yourself? You will be guilty of pushing them through to the next teacher as is the norm now. Sadly, you will be just the same as the others who have failed. I challenge you to actually BE a teacher…a real teacher. If you can’t teach all kinds, don’t become a teacher, please. Maybe that’s harsh but I’ve been watching the system for years across the country, and it’s all the same and getting tighter and tighter. Your unions are killing our kids and you happily go along with it all because you want money. Parents don’t see your help at all and hate giving you more money. It’s a viscous cycle you refuse to see because you want more benefits and money. You can’t get more because parents don’t see results and don’t want to give more because you listen to your union masters and not them. It’s always more money out of their pockets and they see no results from it, just higher costs for less service. You can’t see it because you have to answer all kinds of govt demands for this report and that report, and blame bad parenting for kids not wanting to learn. The comments here about tired and bored students should tell you something! Why don’t you start a non-union teacher group and change things!!!! Challenge admins to change their way of doing things as well. There’s always someone willing to hear. Get parents behind you..that’s paramount! With millions home-schoolering now (considered dropouts by many district) because of poor district standards, why not be brave and be the change that’s needed? I understand you want a job…that you want to be a teacher. But, do you really want to be just a status quo teacher? I thought teachers were made of sterner stuff.
    Have you ever noticed the one who tinkers and fixes everything for people? The mechanic, the inventor, or the plumber/electrician? They own their own businesses and are making a good salary, just like the one who flies the space shuttle. Only, the space guy takes orders from his bosses, and the tinker guy gives orders to his employees. 😀
    There’s an old business saying..“School is a place where former A students teach mostly B students to work for C students.”
    I. Implore. You. . TEACH SO THEY CAN LEARN.

    • You are full of it. I am a parent in an art and science focused charter school, and having non-unionized teachers means they are at the bottom of the pay scale, and (most) do not stick around long. Granted, they are typically young, very enthusiastic teachers- right out of college. They are great while they are there.
      If you accuse teachers of just wanting money, to the detriment of the students, then perhaps YOU should volunteer at a public school, rather than selfishly just looking out for your own kids. Do you or your husband work for free? Why not? Are you just a money grubber, who does not care about their work enough to do it for nothing? If you do not give away your time, then shut it. Calling for others to “give” while you take is nonsense.
      The rest of your rant has SOME legitimate points in there, but the part about being everything to everybody is more nonsense. With more kids stuffed into classes, and more mandates about how schools are run, teachers can not be everything to everyone. If we invested the resources for every class to have maybe a dozen kids in it at the most, then perhaps they could do it all. And maybe do not foist off foreign students who are illiterate in their own language on the mainstream teachers and schools here. It sounds like you are the sort however that would be the first to whine about what public education costs.
      From what I have seen, the home school crowd (the PARENTS that is) and there are many in our school, are the most selfish, entitlement minded bunch of goofballs you will ever meet. Any time I see unusually selfish, bud-to-the-front, me me ME, my kid should be YOUR concern, and I will be here every day to whine about it, you know you are dealing with former/current home school parents. Most kindergartners are better mannered, right out of the box.
      As for the end of your rant, about “space guys” and the “tinker guy”- what the hell are you talking about? Plenty of smart people work for other people, plenty of idiots run large and small businesses. Plenty of self employed people are idiots as well-What are you talking about??

    • I understand wanting to homeschool your children. If you want to micromanage your children and their education, then public school is not for you. Also, I see the statistics that homeschoolers are independent and hard workers, and thats pretty good too. As a high school teacher, I can’t give you a great reason NOT to homeschool your children except for my observation that they do no relate well to their peers. They are, however, a teachers dream student. They rarely ask dumb questions, never cause problems and always do pretty well scholastically. So Im finding that this is definitely a PC vs MAC kind of debate.
      However, I find your psychobabble about who teachers are and what they do just useless and inflammatory. You are exceptionally angry for some reason, and I think that this is the real reason you are homeschooling your student. It makes people feel so smart to attack teachers and use keys phrases like “they dont reach all students” “they dont teach in a variety of ways” and “they dont care about your student.” The reason these commenters are ignorant is because these phrases are like telling your accountant which icon to click on to open excel and how to add correctly. Ok, yes, I have seen a small handful of old teachers stick to the old ways of sink or swim. But lumping all teachers into the same category because you are afraid of public school is complete nonsense.
      I know a LOT of teachers. Ive seen them teach. We are ALL doing our best to reach everyone, care and modify instruction. We are teachers BECAUSE WE WANT TO BE. No one is going to get their benefits cut, wages frozen (or lowered), attacked by ignorant parents, hours lengthened through increased responsibilities, under thanked and clawed at by teen-agers all day long and not care about teaching. There is nothing left anymore except the small possibility of being thanked someday 10 years later. UNIONS are needed because of people like you. If you had it your way, we would be earning $10/hour because apparently we are all useless. You would have no trained teacher retention. Just a massive turnover. Do you really expect uncredentialed teachers to work for less, or people who work for less to have credentials? If I didn’t feel protected from people who vilify teachers, I would seek another job using my degree and take my talent with me.
      FYI. Professional education courses include techniques for: caring for students, differentiating instruction, modifying instruction, using a variety of methods and reaching all types of people.

  73. Excellent. Adults forget that these are still children, very young, inexperienced children. Also each child learns differently. I blame the system because the expectations are high for the student AND the teacher. It’s a no-win situation unless some change is made. Kids are spiraling out because of the struggles. This teacher sure did hit the nail on the head of a lot of the problems. I especially found it interesting that she recognized the sarcasm, and I read lack of respect for students, was not productive at all. Adults are as condescending and disrespectful of kids as they accuse kids of being. Really a great article.

  74. Two ways to reduce the number of commonly asked questions are: write the answer on the board and if another student asks the same one, tell them the answer is on the board (without sarcasm), after giving instructions ask several students to repeat what you just told them (that way they will hear the instructions more than once and they will be more alert to the answer because they may be one of the students asked to repeat it.

  75. I hope my comment doesn’t get too much hate. Well.. here it goes..
    The results in this experiment should not be insightful at all; they should be obvious. For me, the most interesting question is: Why aren’t these results already obvious to seasoned teachers? Some commenters (Patrick) do think the results are somewhat obvious when he is shocked that so many educators find these results new and insightful.
    Is it a failure of curiosity and imagination, a failure to have empathy for the students as (Macucher) suggests? Is that why these results seem novel, novel in the sense that new, intriguing and valuable information has been gained? I really want to know why.
    Another commenter (Keith) might provide a reason, saying many teachers fall back on teacher training from their college courses. Is that true? Some of my teacher friends went back or are going back to school to earn professional degrees to become administrators; they often take additional courses in psychology to learn how to lead and negotiate with teachers. They often say that they wish they would have taken those courses during their undergraduate studies because the information they learn can be applied to students as well. Is Keith right? Does the system need an overhaul?
    Leadership: Being a good leader means that we are careful about what we say and how we say it, and that we should never direct sarcasm to another student. If teachers are leaders in their classrooms, why wasn’t this piece of advice already obvious?
    (Elizabeth beaman) commented that allowing students 5 minutes of play time during class only means that it will take all the students a long time to settle down, 15 minutes. The recommendations by Wiggins: Why not use the scientific method and conduct experiments to see the validity of these recommendations? Have studies already been done that would show support for these recommendations? For example, how much benefit is there by using 5 minutes of class time as downtime versus a controlled group that has no downtime, and even comparing it to a third group with a full recess, as (Macucher) suggests.
    (I think I already know the answer: The administration would never allow or approve this study because that means high schoolers would get a recess break, something viewed as a waste of time and impractical based on the already tight schedule)
    I think I have to shadow someone from a teacher’s college to get a sense of what’s going on for myself. Any comments on what I said and to what direction I should be thinking about these problems would be greatly helpful. Thank you 😀

    • As a college professor that is *not* primarily working with education majors, I found this entire piece deeply troubling. The pedagogies described here are *exactly* those that we tell our new faculty not to use– the lecture died a quiet death on my campus 25+ years ago in the humanities, and is on the way out (finally) in the natural sciences. The flipped classroom, as such, has been the norm in history, English, philosophy, etc. for a generation or more. So why are high school teacher still droning on before a roomful of sleepy teens?
      No wonder our first-year students have such a hard time adapting to an active learning classroom environment when they start college.

      • I’m not an educator, but I did spend quite a bit of time as an outreach coordinator, and as part of that did a lot of training in “facilitation” — running working meetings, generating ideas from groups, conducting effective in-person communications, etc.
        I started giggling as I read the article, because the takeaways & solutions are VERY similar to what is done in facilitation — for exactly the reasons outlined. Then I stopped giggling, because why are we using teaching methods and scheduling that are essentially hostile to human learning on our children? That’s not funny; we go out of our way to avoid doing it to adults, and yet think it’s OK for kids.

      • I remember taking an education class at IU in the late 1990s, during which the instructor (not a full professor) lectured the entire class time, never making eye contact with anyone while emphasizing the importance of eye contact and the ineffectiveness of too much lecture.

        • I attended IU’s school of education in the late 80’s. After graduation I was deeply angry about how poorly I was prepared to teach by this supposedly outstanding school of education. We were repeatedly told to engage students by showing them Far Side comics. Richard Hake was doing his Socratic Dialog labs ON CAMPUS (and publishing papers on education) at the same time and was ignored. Constructivism was emerging and ignored. Last time I looked at IU’s SoEd website, it emphasized “social justice.” Effective instruction techniques was not mentioned.

      • Derek Larson, you and your school *are* the exception, then. I don’t find it very reassuring that your assumption is that *everyone* else has moved on. They haven’t. Might want to catch a glimpse of the real light on that one.

        • I have no idea where Derek Larson teaches, but I have taught at 4 institutions of higher learning (Universities, Colleges, and a Community College) and ALL of them were as Larson described. Maybe YOUR experience is the anomaly, Dan?

      • It’s dependent upon the teacher in a high-school. In part, I think it is due to the fact that there is a teacher shortage, so mediocre teachers can still get good jobs, where they lecture all day. In addition to this, high-school students don’t have a program of learning which is tailored to a specific job, so in the end, high-school students really have more things to do than college students, in a shorter period of time. It’s like cramming as much popcorn into a microwave as you can, and then expecting it to pop.
        I think it would be more reasonable to allow students more autonomy in their class scheduling. Since I was partially home-schooled, and partially enrolled in the public school in my area, I had plenty of freedom in choosing my classes. I took three years of science in one year, two years of history another, did six years of English my freshman year, and spread out math, art, and various other subjects as I pleased. The result was a much better understanding of the topics than my peers (no offense meant to them, of course), and a more balanced education. I had the opportunity to only focus on a few areas, which let me absorb more information, and then learn how to apply it. However, other students don’t have this option, because, aside from one or two open periods, their courses are laid out for them. What those two open sessions are for are generally decided for students by their parents: music being exceptionally common, and otherwise some other class which the student himself may or may not be interested in taking.
        Also, in college, not all professors have moved on from this. However, one of the key differences is that there are fewer classes, and they are generally specific to the major a person plans to attain. Alternatively, they are gen. eds. which the person herself has chosen, and so is more likely to be genuinely interested in the topic.
        Oh, on a side-note (kind of, sort of), getting lectures is okay SOMETIMES. There are classes I have taken, particularly history, where the preferred learning-style for most students, myself included, has been to get lectures. It also breaks up the day some. If we’re not being lectured 70% of the time, then the other 30% is actually nice, and students can learn a lot from it.

      • The “flipped” classroom is a scam to bleed money out of the instructional relationship between live human beings. There is less pay for the actual instructor and more for “e-services.” In a generation, this idea will be quaint for the rich and forced on the poor.

    • Well, I certainly have no expertise to reply. I will say this – in response to your questioning why this isn’t obvious to teachers…valid question I guess, but does it matter? To me, all that matters is that things are currently not done this way and perhaps they should be. Taking the time to find out the why, in this matter anyway, doesn’t seem as important as just making any helpful changes.
      If we need to do studies or experiments regarding some type of recess, so be it. I do recall documentaries about Japanese businesses, the “sit in a cubicle” types, having happy, productive employees after implementing a lunch time exercise program…so…there’s that.

    • Why? Perhaps it’s because the government has been interfering directly or indirectly in the lives of teachers and their students. Perhaps government bureaucracy has created “I get paid anyway” mentality. Perhaps if we celebrate the individual over the group, then teachers and students will innovate and reach their full potential. All the above is of course obvious to many of us, but obscure to most…Why? That’s what I want to know. Great post. Thanks for your insight.

    • I find Wiggin’s observations and thoughts stimulating and troubling at the same time. I have taught science for 31 yrs at the secondary level. I have struggled with all of the typical and not-so-typical issues of motivation, best instructional practices, how to develop good, healthy relationships with my students, and literally hundreds of other things…many of them daily.
      In a nutshell, here are some thoughts from a guy that had a terrible (no exaggeration) educational training experience…
      1. Teachers do what comes naturally to them and often how they themselves learn or learned best. Most educators were good listeners, good learners, easy-to-please students who loved learning. Most of us grew up learning by lecture, with an occasional hands-on experience thrown in when appropriate (or easy) for the teacher to implement. This is not license to do so themselves, it’s just the reality of most teachers. To do what is unnatural, is, quite frankly, difficult, arduous, more time-consuming and plain hard.
      2. Good teachers try desperately to get out of their own way, but often we learned to teach by trial and error and by listening to others…sometimes to peers, or administrators (I’ve had some great ones and some terrible ones) or by watching others teach (next door). I had a principal that never ever observed me in 10+ years. It was the most ridiculous thing in the world. Thankfully I had a terrific department supervisor, but that is not always the case. If you think teachers are “bad” (and there are some in our district), I’m afraid we need to hold administrators accountable for their role in true learning. Some teachers are intrinsically motivated, but the vast majority will do better knowing they themselves will be observed and held accountable. Unfortunately, in my experience, administrators don’t always look at the ‘big picture’. Quite frankly, they should have been the ones that helped Wiggins years ago…either by helping him see the big picture (since they assumably could go from class to class and notice the patterns he brings up in this article) or give teachers like Wiggins time to shadow students to observe it firsthand. I have never had an administrator offer either. It’s just never happened.
      3. Education is not static. Just as soon as you have one technique nailed down, the state or the district or a supervisor says, “don’t do that anymore….try this”. There is so much fluctuation in styles, techniques, the “new, latest and greatest method”…that it’s any wonder any of us have time to actually help students learn. And, I haven’t even begun to discuss standards, changing curricula, and the federal government involvement. If any business was run like education, the company would never make a profit. If there is one thing I would change in education… I would allow veteran and newer teachers to work together to craft solutions to problems…and build consensus and slow change, not emergency, rapid-fire, we-have-to-do-this-tomorrow type of change I have seen accelerated the last 15 years or so. Most teachers in my district are decent, hard-working educators. But they are not empowered to craft their own style and methodology…with help, of course. Instead, they are often like the proverbial bull with a nose-ring…being led here and there…and never letting them do their thing.
      4. I have never taught in a block schedule format. So, Wiggin’s suggestion of starting each class period with a 20 min “question and answer” period is wonderful in theory but highly impractical. I would be open to a brief 2 or 3 min period for students to air questions…but a good teacher builds wait time into her lessons/activities so that students feel comfortable and free to ask questions as they pop to mind.
      5. I understand Wiggin’s concern about the daily schedule (of sitting for hours) fostering lethargy in students, but I teach middle school students. I give them opportunity to move around as needed, but what’s more important (and it took me nearly 20 yrs to learn this) is for me to give them opportunity to engage in active thinking. That has been the best thing I’ve done in all the years I’ve worked my craft. [They say that doctors are in “practice”. If that’s true (and I understand it is), then it would be true for teachers in spades.] Yes, students need to move around, but I would argue that Wiggins (and myself) are more subject to feeling lethargic than a 12 year old. Students for hundreds of years now have been required to “sit still” and “listen” and “wait your turn”. I don’t think it’s killed anyone… and, perhaps if one has learned it, it has made us better citizens…in the theatre, in church or synagogue, in public meetings, etc. Could I help foster more activity in my classroom? Sure, but someone has to either take away content or give me more time. I dare say neither will happen (at least not soon), so I’m left with an obvious dilemma. Note- it’s true, in my first period class this year, the students are so lethargic coming into my class…that at least once a week (to avoid apoplexy on my part) I have everyone stand up and we do 20 or 25 jumping jacks. It helps!
      6. As educators, we simply have too much to teach. There are many reasons for this. The students I’m teaching today…
      – have less ability
      – have poorer vocabulary skills
      – have less coping mechanisms for what to do when they don’t know what to do with a difficult problem
      – do less homework than student 15 years ago
      – have poorer math skills and very poor basic math sense
      – have far less common knowledge (what animals are in the woods around my house?)
      So, where do I begin? Each year I have to reach further back… and begin where I had assumed students had mastered things years ago. I still basically have the same amount of time I have always had to teach…but now for me to teach the concepts and ideas I am required to teach (and do the types of activities we know help students to learn)…I have to teach things that students used to come to me already having been exposed to or mastered.
      7. We are in a crisis. It’s what my wife and I often refer to as the “perfect storm” of education. More about this another time. I’ve rambled enough tonight.
      I’ll see what a new day brings. I have to teach in the morning, and I genuinely look forward to it.

      • I agree with everything about this comment! It very accurately reflects my experience as a professor at a community college.

    • We can always moan about the past, the knowledge is “Where do we go from here?” Change what you are doing and do this now, starting now and be the difference from this point forward.

  76. Teacher-
    Compassion of the students life is important.
    Administration, Parents –
    Compassion for the teachers life is important.
    Focus on Marzono not important.
    Teachers need to focus all their energy on the students in the classroom and student.
    I often ask people who have graduated high school; “did you enjoy US History in high ”
    EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO enjoyed history had one common reason; they liked the teacher.
    Not all the people who said no, did not like their teacher.
    “Like” is relative so I ask why you did or didn’t like the teacher, their primary reason why they liked their teacher was ” I learned ” and they where ” fun” and “told stories” .
    I could go on with what I discovered . We simply need to ask those who are out of high school (least that’s what I teach) what they think.

  77. I did an intensive TEFL course – Teaching English as a Foreign Language – a few years ago which only lasted four weeks. Yet in those four weeks we learned how to structure a lesson in order to maximise students’ learning: I was taught to elicit information from students rather than deliver it straight to them with no effort on their part; to structure my classes so that all types of learners were addressed, using visual and audio prompts, as well as lots of activities where students learn by doing. We were taught that students cannot pay full attention for more than 20 minutes, so the “intensive learning” part of our class should ideally last no longer than that, better if it can include a “soft” or active intro and immediate application through an activity: roleplay, games – yes, games! So much of our learning is made much easier through games, in fact gaming software is even used for executive education nowadays. I won’t describe all the valuable things that (potentially) make EFL lessons efficient and enjoyable, but as I was learning these things I did think: Why aren’t these principles applied to ALL teaching, ESPECIALLY at a young age? Adults are keener to bear sitting down listening to someone drone on for hours, but what about children, who NEED to move, who are MADE TO sit down and listen rather than choose to (I am comparing it to adult education, executive education, university, language classes, etc.)? How can you expect children to self-motivate when there is no motivation-creating technique in teaching?
    I learnt so many valuable teaching principles in just a mere four weeks, with no previous knowledge of teaching. Surely the school system can train and update their teachers on making their schedule more efficient in no time at all if there was the right push. Surely many teachers would love to be more innovative and effective in their delivery. I hope they will be given this chance. I would definitely support the cause.

    • These are high school students not elementary-aged students. Some can argue that turning everything into “games” and “fun”, which is what many teenagers are already to accustomed to at home, will not be beneficial to their schooling.

      • There is no suggestion that everything has to be a game. Also your blatant judgement of what students are accustomed to at home is part of the problem. Home life for teens is just as wide & varied an experience as home life for adults.

      • The better way to teach is for teachers to record (video) their lectures on social media or iPads that students can access, then spend the next day discussing the lecture and answer questions so all students understand.

        • response to Thresa Jenkins,
          With all due respect, I cannot imagine a more boring, lack-of-involvement exercise than sitting and watching a video of a teacher. Several other teachers have commented that one of the biggest keys to teaching (and, for that matter, of communicating in general) is the speaker must be engaging and enjoyable. This doesn’t necessarily mean “fun”, but they have to be animated enough to maintain attention. However, one of the biggest reasons (and opportunities) for this is that the teacher is before a “live” audience. You take that away in the life of anyone, and especially a teenager, and I’m afraid it would be deadly.
          Thresa- you may learn best by this type of approach, but most students I have taught (thousands) need constant stimulation, small group or large group interaction, hands-on, minds-on learning, a change of pace in a 40 minute window, etc.
          Also, don’t forget one of the most important points in this shadowing study analysis was that the lecture format is deadly (which I think it can be)…so, videotaping lectures still leaves one with, well…lectures.

    • I took the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) course run by the British Council a few years ago and learnt the same skills as this former EFL teacher mentions. My course was part-time course over 6 weeks.
      Games don’t have to be childish, and I learnt to use them with adults, so they can clearly be used to benefit teenagers who land in the age bracket between kids and adults. There was a huge emphasis on the teacher not dominating the lesson with the sound of their own voice, and we also learnt to avoid demeaning students with smirks or sarcasm. I learn how to teach effectively, and although I haven’t done it consistently since (and have therefore forgotten many techniques), I am constantly reminded of them as over the years I have been a student in various evening language class for adults. You don’t have to go to a kid’s classroom to see what does and doesn’t work, you can take an evening class and get the same effect. I feel that most teachers could benefit from the lessons of a good TEFL/CELTA course.

  78. Reblogged this on disruptivity and commented:
    After reading this I am struck by the difference in experience of an online student. Students in online have freedom to move, must actively pursue knowledge to get anywhere at all. But, sometimes external expectations (the students’, parents’, local mentors’) impose these same face-2-face expectations of what learning looks like.
    How does your students’ experience look and feel?

  79. I feel sorry for the low-movement, introverted students in your class. You’re just assuming everyone is like you – when I was a student I loathed small-group work and would have skipped class to avoid basketball.

    • Thank you, Evie!! I really like these ideas, but it’s true – as a student I would have hated them. But maybe a little for the kinesthetic kids, a little for us introverts?

  80. I think that the most valuable insight she gained was in experiencing a whole school day from a whole students’s perspective. High school teachers’ days are lived in incremental 40-50 minute periods. It’s easy to get compartmentalized and feel you should be able to expect a 16 year old to sit and attend for YOUR class period. They forget, or never realized that the students may have already had to do that 6 times before your class – or they’re facing down the barrel of 6 more hours of the same thing… And we can’t say that this is good preparation for 2 hour lectures in college either. Very seldom do college students have back to back lectures inside the same building with only 5 minutes in between, or before, or after.

  81. Just another perfect example of why you should homeschool. Kids aren’t meant to sit at desk all da . It’s not mentally or phisically healthy.

    • I think what you intended to say is, “Just another perfect example of why I feel good about homeschooling my kids.” Which is great for you.
      But not everyone who homeschools does so in a different manner than what this teacher experienced, and not every public school does things in the same manner.

    • How to students learn to engage with others and learn to love and show respect to people of different cultural, racial, ethnic, gender, and demographics? When I have children regardless of how rich I am I will put them in public first, then maybe private, but absolutely not home school. Public schooling can be such a rich learning environment. And I am confident it will get there nationwide.

        • The old “How will they become socialized?” chestnut. *sigh*
          I home educate my kids. We spend probably less than half of our week actually at home, and probably only an hour per day sitting round the table doing “school work” – although my kids are presently young and no doubt the amount of book work will increase when they hit high school ages. This month, for example, our activities with others include: church, (ages 1-90+), Sunday school, visiting an Aquarium, a BBC screening of classical music at the local Cinema, a concert for children including jazz, folk and big band, swimming, gymnastics, Forest School and Messy Science. Most of these activities are with groups of Home Ed friends who they see regularly and include children from a wide range of backgrounds, different races, and a fair number with special educational needs (because you find a LOT of Home Edders with SEN whose needs are not being met in public schools).
          Children learn to engage with others, love and respect others etc. etc. by living in the world, and by the example set to them by their parents and other adults they encounter. I would argue that they get *more* opportunities to do so from a Home Ed background than if they are spending all day sitting in a class of their age-peers, absorbing (or not) information being delivered to them by a teacher. But that is why we Home Educate.

          • They are probably never around any of the kids from my neighborhood. I am sure of that. The kids in my area are trend setters, “leaders”, “idols” and have more influence over students than teachers.

      • I was home schooled and do not experience challenges interacting with any demographic. The thought that home schooled kids are socially awkward is just another stereotype. In my hometown there was a home school group that offered various clubs, dances, and even sports. My brother and I were very active in the group in different ways. We experienced socialization with plenty other students through these activities. Just because this socialization was not in a classroom setting does not mean that we wouldn’t learn respect towards other cultures or races. I would say that lesson is learned from home anyhow. I adjusted to college easily and am doing rather well. I am not certain if I am going to home school my own children when I have them or not, but I am certainly not going to knock someone else’s choices when it comes to their children’s education.

  82. Very illuminating from the perspective of a college teacher wondering why her freshmen students always struggle with participating in class discussions and critical thought.

  83. WOW brilliant. I think that every teacher should receive a copy of this.
    I am a mother to three sons and have been a mother and parent to two step children also. One of my biggest criticism of the teachers over the years has been the demand of the children to behave like an adult ! Hearing your words is like music to my ears.
    I have been constantly shocked by the miss use of words and how they are said to the next generation. Teaching through bullying, sarcasm and negativity should be stopped. Just as teaching through compassion, respect and encouragement should be rewarded. Words are accurate and precise. Teachers should take responsibility for them and use them only with the intension of the child’s personal growth.

  84. As teachers in Wyoming years ago, we were trained in Brain based learning that added some kenetic activity to your lessons every 20 minutes. It’s great stuff. The folks ( two sisters) from “Grey Matters” in Colorado came several times to instruct us on how to teach to boys vs. girls, and add the things that make learning fun. Look into it and if you can have them come do workshops at your school, it’s priceless!

  85. I cut all sarcasm and negative talk from my classroom. We had to have one aide leave as she refused to cut the sarcasm, it was a “part of who I am”
    My students quit getting sick, They just did not get ill any more. 5 years with hardly a sick student. They were special needs. When we cut it all out they did not want to go out in the halls anymore. They and I heard it and we lost our tolerance for it. It cut to the bone.

      • Sarcasm is a form of judgment, negative even when cloaked in humor. When directed at a student, it becomes personal, belittling, and disrespectful — and therefore, not conducive to learning.
        In fact, a teacher’s use of sarcasm shifts the lesson from history, math, or whatever to an ugly social lesson: that a person in power is entitled to make a subordinate squirm in front of peers. Ultimately, a teacher’s use of sarcasm is not so different from the playground taunts of a bully surrounded by a bunch of onlookers, some of whom may laugh or join in the harassment, while others silently cringe but do nothing.
        Students don’t absorb new information in the same way or at the same rate for a variety of reasons. When a student is brave enough to ask a question in front of classmates, he deserves a helpful response from the teacher.

  86. Not sure if this has been said in previous message but think about the disciplinary problems that occur because of the sedentary nature of a student’s class day.

  87. Enjoyed the article but ,I too feel sorry for teachers. Underpaid and no understanding .Under pressure because of test scores. It’s a wonder how teachers are over looked. Did you shadow the parent of some of these students that you feel sorry for? UMMM i WONDER.

    • I am on your side. Thanks for bringing parents into consideration, because more than anything else, teachers should be shadowing kids at home. We will never get to where we need to be in education if we just constantly strike down hard on teachers and the “educational/classroom” environment without first understanding and improving the home environment. These days teachers have taken on the heavy burden of discipline in the classroom. Have this teacher ever experienced how tough it can be to regain the attention of class after having a group discussion, group activity, fun activity, etc?

  88. It seems to me that the key point is that kids, who are still children, are being asked to do something that most adults are not capable of. Their bodies and brains are not developed enough yet to meet these demands.
    In addition, every person has different needs, and this method provides little in the from of differentiation, emotional intelligence, or just plain meeting individuals where they are coming from.
    We all get to make these choices as adults, in the types of careers that we choose, but kids are not given that leeway.
    thanks for spreading the word.

  89. Grant, of all the work you’ve done for schools, teachers and students – writing this essay – rather, publishing it – may have done more good than many other things. But, we’ll see. I’ve read accounts like this before.

  90. It was like this when I graduated high school 27 years ago. Since then we’ve had “radical new approaches” to education but the truth is that education in the US is still the same. Passive and for auditory learners alone. I struggled in high school but excelled in college where educators were more Socratic in their teaching.
    Now that I have kids I see teachers wanting to break free from the chains of standardized tests but can’t. “New math” is questionable at best. We are still failing our kids…27 years later. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from other countries who excel at this? Perhaps we need to stop with the Education Programs Du Jour such as No Child Left Behind, or Common Core and get the bureaucrats out of the classroom. Let the teachers create a vibrant, creative, more-than-on-style-of-learning education plan and pay them a lot more based on merit.

  91. Many high school students are over 6 ft. tall sitting in seats designed for 5 ft 80 lb people .
    Sitting in a chair that doesn’t fit is twice as tiring .

  92. We all care SO very passionately for our children, and are all trying to do the best we know how to care for them. And yet we constantly, because we are flawed humans (or at least I am, you, gentle reader, might be an exception) fall into the trap of thinking that because we have one answer, that we have all the answers. We generalize from what works for us, in our positions, to the conclusion of what will work for everyone. If I have a strong take away from this article, it is that:
    -we need to accurately measure what works, Humans tend to believe the compelling story, the touching anecdote, and often this informs how we interact with eachother. We need studies about what works, because each student is different, so the cool technique that engages one, will not work for each student. Best practices generate desired results.
    – We need to invest in our teachers- give them the time and the support to learn and implement best practices. Just as our students are on a treadmill of classes, and homework, and meeting the expectations of the adults in their lives, So our teachers are on a treadmill of teaching, grading, meeting with administration, and responding to parents. They need to have support to grow as professionals, if we are going to fix problems with education, and improve things for our kids, supporting the teachers is the place to start. They are the face of education to our kids.
    – Parents need to parent, and let teachers teach. With suitable oversight at the school board level. So many parents have strong opinions on what teachers do, of course, because they CARE SO PASSIONATELY ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN, and that is right and good. Parents should be their children’s first teacher, confidante, enforcer of rules, companion, caretaker, advocate, and source of high expectations and unconditional love. But teachers pour their skills, passion and training into their profession. Encourage them, inform them of the parent’s point of view, but then stand back and let them do their job.
    The status quo is comfortable, Change and improvement are hard, and will only be achieved if we all work at it as a team.

  93. As a parent of three children I can appreciate the different learning styles of children. They do not absorb information, retain information, analyze information in the same way or with the same motivation. My children have had amazing teachers and horrific teachers. I have often volunteered in the school system and witnessed teachers in the progress of teaching. I have seen teachers I would consider bullies to their students. As adults we would never stand for some of the treatment some teachers show their students. They don’t allow bathroom breaks, water bottles in the classrooms, talking, sometimes discourage questions, blame the children when the class as a whole fails to do well on a test or quiz (no question if perhaps they had a valid reason for not understanding the way the information was taught in the first place.) Ugh! I would not want to be back in school for all the money in the world. I am not even touching on the fact that the children stay up late at night studying and awake early (5:30-6:30 am) to go back to school again the next day. The peer pressure and drama that envelopes the children 24/7 as well. My children all went to “good schools in a highly rated school district”. I am more amazed that they come out of the whole experience as well as they do. Kids these days need to have a fully realized “portfolio” of achievements in order to get into college. The pressure to have all A’s, volunteer in the Congo, save the whales, master Mandarin Chinese, patent a life saving device, and create, market and sell your own iphone app is intense. All that just to get into the state school of your choice. I couldn’t have done it in my day, and I doubt you all did or could have.

  94. ok…nothing new…Another lets blame teachers and make excuses for students. We have been doing this for 20 years. Please get out of education. You are a problem and NOT the solution.

  95. Please do a Ted or TedX talk. I fear many teachers won’t hear your wisdom without this spreading farther than social media can take it. I took both kids out of school and am homeschooling them now. I made this choice, in large part, because of the attitudes they would get from teachers when they still needed help with something they just didn’t understand. And thank you for doing this. Thank you for sharing it.

      • Homeschooling is the biggest joke on the planet, students don’t get the social interaction and realism that schools provide. Sheltering is not the answer.

  96. Oh dude, my high school experience was quite similar and in some ways worse. The few exceptions were some of the advanced placement classes that I took, such as AP English and AP Chemistry. In those classes, thank God, the teachers encouraged us to ask questions, initiate dialogue, share our opinions, and of course in chemistry we had labs which were interactive. Those classes were sanity-savers. Many of the other classes were agonizing.
    And think about how you would feel if the following was added into your experience: my high school, like most if not all, had issues with kids smoking in the bathrooms. At some point the administration decided that the solution to this problem was to take all the doors off the bathroom stalls in all the hallway bathrooms. So now, students cannot go to the bathroom with any privacy at all. Can you imagine- high school bathrooms are already a high-profile area for teasing, bullying and assaults in schools and in this situation students are even more exposed and vulnerable. The only bathrooms with privacy were those in the locker rooms adjacent to the gymnasium, but they were far away from most of the classrooms, and with only, what, five minutes passing time it was absolutely impossible to run down to the gym, go to the bathroom, run back and get to class on time. The student would be tardy, and three tardies earned you a detention.
    So just getting through a school day required careful strategizing regarding when to drink liquids, and how much to drink, depending on when your gym class was which would give you your SOLE opportunity all day to use a bathroom with privacy, and debating how long you could hold it versus how willing you would be to come one step closer to getting a detention, just because you’re a human being who has to go to the bathroom. Oh, and GOD FORBID that you have the misfortune of being a teenage girl having her period in such an environment……apparently the school administration thought that having to change your tampon while being stared at, mocked and teased by a flock of bullies flicking cigarette ash at you didn’t qualify as a humiliating experience sufficient to reinstate the doors of the bathroom stalls. Thank God that nobody had camera phones when I was in high school; I can imagine that these days, the bullies would be posting humiliating pics on Twitter and other sites faster than the poor girl could get her pants back on.
    And this is the environment in which students are supposed to be learning the things they need to get them through the rest of their lives…….

  97. Thank you. I wish all teachers could really encourage group work and questions. My daughter understands it better if she hears it and repeats it.

  98. I am not an educator. Nor am I any longer a student of any formal learning institution. However, in reading this essay — I believe I have something to contribute to what you stated. To a degree your first two key takeaways are somewhat related. I am not sure I would agree that sitting is exhausting. What I would say about sitting is that it is not healthy to sit for too long without getting up and moving about – and I would offer the students more than what you are offering them. I would suggest that you do a “give and take” type activity, focusing on material learned, but do it with all your students standing, and even walking around. The “passive learning” is addressed there as well. But the thing you are completely not addressing is this: active listening. Active listening means just that: actively engaging in the act of listening to a speaker and ascribing meaning to what is heard. The problem is, the average individual can only actively listen for about 20 minutes at a time, before their attention wanders. The attention will wander for anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. Then, the individual comes back and is once again, “paying attention” or actively listening. Active listening is also exhausting. I know this from my own experience as a severely to profoundly deaf person who wears hearing aids. For someone like myself it is even more exhausting. Because when hearing person’s attention wanders, they are still hearing and thus absorbing, the lecture. But when my attention wanders, I am no longer hearing or absorbing anything – and when my attention returns, I am lost and struggle to re-focus. Students with auditory processing issues, students with ADD, students who simply process information slower than most — and students who are hearing impaired, are all going to have issues with learning n this manner. The job of a teacher is a hard one, and fraught with a huge amount of responsibility. I wish all teachers would take their jobs that seriously.

  99. All people, students and adults alike should be treated with respect (spoken to and addressed the way he/she would want to be), compassion (considerate on expectations in all regards), and encouragement (sprinkled with stars and much more). What a wonderful world this would be.

  100. I have been subbing for three weeks after a year of student teaching in high school and middle school and here is what I’ve found: without classroom management you will get nowhere; the instruction must be varied and project based; and most importantly, the student must believe that you care about them – we are role models, mentors, pseudo parents, adult facilitators and, as Dr. Jones says, activity directors!
    In 2000, Dr. Fred Jones published his book, “Tools for Teaching”, after decades of research (and I’m guessing millions of dollars) and here is what he found: teaching must include Say, See, Do teaching, Visual Instruction Plans (good graphics), weaning helpless hand raisers off dependence (learned helplessness), the use of body language with mobility and proximity, routines and procedures with perfect practice, and the use of competitive games (e.g., Jeopardy, baseball, etc.) plus much more. He also points out the obvious: students learn by doing and they like being active and especially interactive when the process engages all of their senses.
    But he points out that teachers must first answer the question most students ask (or think), “Why should I?”
    The answer is Preferred Activity Time or PAT. The activities are academically based (it is not time for homework or free time) and students are given a choice. Bonus PAT is extra time added to regular PAT when students behave properly so that the whole class wins, which also helps to keep noncompliant students in line. Every student, therefore, has a vested interest in working for more PAT time because in theory it is something that they want to do and enjoy doing by choice. Again, these are activities solely based on the subject matter.
    (It seems to me that we should spend more time coming up with PAT ideas and less time on…you fill in the blank….)
    Reality Check:
    Problem was, during my student teaching, I had 42 seniors in one class (one student was 22!), and 114 students overall, and accomplishing this goal was difficult (three days a week I was getting my teaching credential with classes till 9:45 at night and teaching the following morning at 7:55am, not counting commute time, etc. – you get the idea.)
    I believe that preparation for PAT is key, but you need a ton of time and perseverance – plus flexibility (trying to find out what works, etc.), something I have yet to accomplish…but I’m willing to try.

  101. I concur. I coteach. I am a special educator whom is paired with a general education teacher. My students are mixed in with his. I find myself sitting and listening also..and boy if I zone out, work on another thing that needs to be done and miss part of directions given by the person who is “in charge”…and have to ask for a thing to be repeated…whew…The glare I get. I often am doing other things in the room…not listening to every word the speaker is speaking…I’m surveying the room….looking for holes in the whole process. And in past coteaching classes where i have not been allowed to move around bc the lead teacher can’t handle the “disruption”…it is exhausting!!! I thank God that this year I have a “good partner.” He’s laid back; not a complete, insecure, control freak.
    We teachers do love to hear ourselves talk…using kitchen timer for activities…to chunk kessons…7 min lecture/process 5 min/15 min hands on graphic org inveztigation…etc…Awesome…used to do it before “inclusion” and I was in my own territory.
    Our school has been trained in the “new” techniques…Some of them…reception has been iffy.
    I could go on and on…
    Breaks for brain gym and body movement are badly needed…yes
    Water and bathroom breaks too. Try being a girl and needing to use the restroom between classes…finding a stall that is: open, with Tp and locks and not clogged. Then onto paper towel soap and working faucet? It is trial and error in there. And for goodness sakes do NOT be TARDY. Do you know how many girls (and female teachers ) get bladder infections the first few months of school while bodies adjust? How about getting a drink of water from disgusting public fountains that are really far too low to the ground? Your rear end is an invitation for others to bother or bump accidently in the over crowded halls. So forget hydrating the brain. Water bottles? Cant..rules don’t allow bc some kids bring alcohol…
    so you hold your bathroom needs and don’t drink water. Forget about wanting caffeine…not allowed.
    The boys bathroom is worse I hear, by the way…
    Processing breaks…for sure…needed…for kids to talk to each other or write down questions or statements about what they learned.
    Love the idea of reading for 5; questions for 5…before anyone writes. Used to do it in “my room” I’d love to make adults I know go through some assignments I create that have sketchy directions verbal and written…and then allow me to be sarcastic with them when I am answering their question.
    Wouldn’t that be fun?
    What ARE the teacher colleges teaching? I know the rookies coming up actually get more field experience than we used to…(1986)
    But are the professors in universities teaching their classes appropriately? We learn best by doing. If a new teacher just spent years sitting and listening in college…that’s what they may end up doing in their class to their own students…
    I had to do two student teachings…One for emotionally impaired certification and one for regular ed. I think all teachers should have the training that I had. I learned about behavior…discipline…what makes kids tic.
    Then I went on to get my cert in learning disabilitues….I think we teachers could all learn from those classes as well as the multiple intelligence classes I took….I wish we all had to….we also need to ditch the factory model of schools…rows and rows with 33, 36, 39? Bring numbers down to more manageable sizes…15-18. Then there is room for movement, groupwork, presentations, projects, time for questions, all students to have input and to feel a connection. Ive seen it, I’ve done it. But we Americans do not want to PAY for smaller class size…= more teachers; more schools = higher taxes. We want to have OUR cake and eat it too…but no one wants to pay for the cost. Think about it.
    I’ve taught since ’89. I’ve almost seen it all.

  102. Thanks for this article, which was sent to the entire Arts and Sciences division of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College by our Dean . I plan to use it as my keystone for a Professional Development course, “Active Learning Methods for Biology Instructors”.

  103. Many years ago I was interviewed for a technical support position where they asked me how I would learn their system which was very client proprietary. I responded with going through the user documentation, playing with it in their test environment, if there was one and, most important of all, spending a couple of days shadowing the customer to see how they actually used it. They were horrified. I didn’t get that job – but didn’t want it. Any company who doesn’t think it’s important to get an understanding how their customer uses their product isn’t a company I would consider working for.
    You have proven that point 10-fold.

  104. There was a comment above about teachers doing what comes naturally and I agree. Most teachers are ones who were good auditory learners. As I read this article I find myself immediately feeling adversarial because as I look back at my education I can’t imagine it any other way. What inspired me to teach were good teachers. And for me those teachers weren’t ones that did all sorts of cool new teaching exercises, but these were teachers who were passionate about the subject material, passionate about learning, explained things clearly and promoted an atmosphere in the classroom that encouraged questions, but was also approachable outside of class for questions as well.
    Why was I not a listless teen and others are? That is the question. Is it because, since I learn well by listening that I simply felt more engaged? Is it because I also spent a lot of time doing homework thus helping me understand what the teacher was saying more and could follow along with lectures? Is it because I went to bed at a decent time and got plenty of sleep and didn’t stay out late with friends or drink heavily as a college student? Is it because my parents disciplined me to always do my work first before play? Is it because they instilled me the value of education and learning, and also loved to learn themselves?
    I mean there are kids in other countries who have no opportunity for education, or who walk miles everyday just to get to a school to sit there and listen to a teacher to lecture to them and teach them something. They aren’t complaining about it not being fun enough. It’s fun to learn isn’t it? Shouldn’t it be? Regardless of how you learn it. Look it’s clear that people prefer to learn in different ways and obviously we should be providing that diversity of learning style opportunities if we can. As class sizes continue to increase and teaching resources continue to decrease this gets harder and harder to do.
    And teachers who say it’s better to learn a few things well than a lot of things poorly, might be right in some ways, but at the college level there are actually a lot of things that you have to cover to ethically put somebody out into the real world. Imagine an engineer who only knew half of the knowledge he needed to build a bridge well. Okay so you can argue, but if he knows how to learn he can pick up what he needs on his own, but why isn’t that true of a student within the context of a class?
    I guess overall I feel why are we as teachers beating ourselves up for not doing it right? Everybody who has commented on here clearly cares about student learning and seems passionate about it. I am constantly told that in today’s age students have instant access to all sorts of information, so why aren’t students using this wealth of information called the internet. I often get questions where students say “I couldn’t find information about so and so in the textbook”. I teach a general education Earth Science class so everything that we talk about has about a 1000 websites that you could find the answer on. Are the students intellectually lazy through years of an education system simply teaching to the test or are they just lazy. I mean lets say I lecture about density in class. You are student, you stop paying attention perhaps, or you aren’t understanding it. You could ask a question. Students usually don’t. If you do, I might only have more words to give you. I could draw a diagram perhaps. Still not hands-on…well what’s one to do? Perhaps you could spend some time on the internet. You might find some animations, some additional explanations, you might even find an experiment you could do at home with common materials to help you understand. Yes that’s right a student, through their own initiative, could actually do hands on activities at home.
    Most of the great teachers I know have a variety of styles. Some use a lot of lecture some do not. The students love teachers who care about them and who are passionate about teaching. I think we need to get away from standardized testing. I think we need to put the value of education back into our culture again, and I think we need to not focus on the financial aspect of learning. That learning has value in of itself whether you become a janitor or a doctor. We need to value all people who make up a society and not tell every student that their goal should be to go to university. There are plenty of trade schools that provide people with high paying jobs that they might enjoy even more without the expense of a university education. In many cultures a teacher is one of the most respected members of community, representing someone who is not only educated but qualified to educate others. In the United States teachers are considered as drains to the economy who get paid way too much for having the summers off. And politicians and administrators run schools like businesses just to be able to stay afloat. Why would any kid want to pay attention to a teacher?

  105. I agree with just about all you said but felt I needed to add some other important factors. In my county, and state, the requirements have become so stringent that teachers have to follow a designated plan everyday, with no leeway. That leaves NO time to do some of the things you talked about, especially on how to begin a class. We use to be able to use our professional judgment on how to carry out a lesson but no more. This is so wrong. Thank you so much for your ideas!

    • To Kip Mitchell’s reply…
      I agree. I’m afraid you can thank the federal government’s “Race (Rush) to the Top” program to improve education, which woefully is doing anything but. The Constitution never mentions the role of the federal gov’t in education…that was left to “these United States”, I believe.
      Since the feds hold the big bucks, they have lured most states into buying into the “rush”…and subsequently taken all the focus and thoughtful progress of education away from those who could do something about it: teachers. Instead, we’re left prisoners in our own profession. Seems like doctors are in the same predicament. Hmm…

  106. As a physical education teacher, I encourage movement in the classroom. That is not a new theory. The main benefit is to the brain. When one sits for too long, as short as only 20 minutes sometimes, the heart rate slows down, the blood flow slows, and blood, which is supposed to be carrying oxygen and other nutrients to the brain, begins to pool in the hamstrings. This is why legs can be stiff and sore when you get up from sitting for a long time. This keeps the brain from getting nutrients essential for proper function. As a result, the brain actually thinks it is rest time, and can kick into a rest mode, as if the person were laying to to sleep at night. The person, student in this case, becomes lethargic, concentration suffers, attention span drops as the brain attempts to “rest”. This is when students will start to get drowsy and even doze off in class.
    Students need to be up and moving from time to time to keep the proper blood flow to the brain, so that it can function properly.

  107. I found this extremely interesting. I am newly retired after 30 years of working for the feds. I have spent the last 15 teaching continuing education classes and in the last five, writing the training material and advising on educational and training needs in very complex procedures. I have taught probably thousands of adult students and even did coaching over the phone and computer. I also worked as a substitute teacher for junior high classes and as a literacy coach to elementary students with reading problems. I taught Bible classes for children of all ages. The most difficult were the adults, easily bored, resentful at having to be in class, argumentative, and sometimes bone lazy. I have two nieces and a cousin who are professional teachers. Thank goodness I had more autonomy than they! Adults also were expected to get stretch and bathroom breaks. If they needed one before it was scheduled, they could request it. I only had a few rules for all my classes no matter the age group or subject. First and most important: I was in charge. I never gave up my position of authority to disruptive students. Second: Make the subject interesting – which was very difficult sometimes with bureaucratic information. Third: There is no such thing as a stupid question, even if it is repetitive. Fourth: Mix up the learning styles. Some people learn by listening, some by taking notes, some by practicing examples, some by reading. Fifth: Classroom participation was a must. How else will a teacher immediately know if the students are getting what is being taught?
    I absolutely loved teaching and writing training material to make it easy for students to learn. It broke my heart as a high school graduate to realize I would never be able to get the funds to go to college and to be allowed to teach later simply because my bosses were looking for someone willing to teach just made my day. Having my students stop me in the hall to fervently thank me for helping them to finally understand something that had bewildered them for years gave me a real feeling of accomplishment.

  108. Maybe all teachers should have to do this but include the hours of homework too…no sleeeping at 8:30!

    • The author was very mindful of her cop-out and got an earful from students about the added burden of homework. When she shadows again, soon, she plans to do the whole thing.

  109. I come from an overseas educational background. Mostly. I spent very few years in school here stateside, and I’m glad for it. Kids in America are allowed way too much latitude & discipline is lacking. Or it’s visible. It’s finessed overseas.
    I found it interesting that neither of the kids you shadowed had any athletic activities -either compulsory or elective- during their days. Why?
    I won’t hold my grade or high schools overseas out to be some perfect examples, but they certainly did some things right.
    During high school registration, every student had to join one of four houses: red, blue, green, and yellow. These houses participated in intramural sports like volleyball, softball, soccer, field hockey, flag football during every school day, usually during lunch, which was longer than an hour most days. There was a rule that no matter whether a student was good or bad, they were absolutely allowed to play. How else will they learn?
    We had social get-togethers on-campus, and weekend trips away from home which were designed to allow the kids to get to know each other. Because it was an international crowd, this was an essential exercise in demystifying foreign cultures. Why do I mention it? Because if there is one thing I detested about school in America, it was the social cliques, the exclusivity, the kids who weren’t inclusive & the bullying -which seemed to be tacitly approved by the teachers & administration. We are not correcting the bad behaviors that kids will naturally try out & try to get away with as soon as they occur. They’re allowed to fester & persist. Bad behavior deserves swift consequences, otherwise students don’t learn any better. In fact, they get the wrong impressions.
    A lot of our extracurricular activities were designed with specific purposes in mind. Organized physical activities are absolutely essential for kids, so they can blow-off steam, they can develop social skills, and learn to work together.
    Why are the classes noted here are so long. WHY? This makes no sense, not for the kids or the teachers. You lose your audience when you make them sit long enough, listening to teachers drone on & on. An hour, that’s it. Next!
    American schools should be getting back to basics. Stop pandering to the lower 1/3 of performers. They should be made to tow the line. Don’t dumb-down the educational process. Kids who have learning disabilities or comprehension issues should be removed from the general population and not reintegrated until they bring their grades and test scores up to par, and that par should be pretty high. Standardized tests should be used to gauge whether most kids are learning at the same rate/level, if some should be accelerated, and some just aren’t cutting the mustard.
    Another thing I’ve noticed is how much parents are allowed to insinuate themselves in this process. When certain kids are creating problems, remove them -whether the issues are learning or discipline-based. Parents should not be allowed to bully their bad kids back into the general population.
    Basics. We have strayed so far from the basics and what has it gotten us? And we’ve strayed so far from that which we know works. We can spell out all kinds of differences between what I experienced here versus overseas and say “it’ll never work here!” -but I don’t believe this is true.

    • I wonder. Where do you see parents in students’ education? To give schools full autonomy over their children is ridiculous. Yes. They should follow rules that are set. However, parents’ authority and input should not be ignored since we have a far longer and more personal relationship with our children then schools. Also we are more impacted by what schools require of them then is realized. Our time with them during critical years is shortened and, I as see it, encrouched upon by schools. Do you really think that it’s ok to send your child to be taught by someone who you dont know and have little to no recourse if you dont agree with how or what is being taught without being deemed a nuisance or unccooperative?
      “Insuniate”? If it keeps them from indoctrination and gives them free-will, then I’ll insinuate thoroughly!

  110. Perhaps my most recent experience in the high school system might provide some insight:
    I’m a university prof working on an outreach program. I go into the high schools in the area, granted, only for one or two days, and get to interact with the teachers of the biology curriculum. One of them told me that the following day they would be doing a ‘bell ringer exam just like they will have to do in university’. The teacher thought that this was still a common practice.
    Well, we’ve managed to eliminate these punitive ‘bell ringers’ from our department… actually, in all but one course, this happened a long long time ago! So perhaps high school teachers are working hard to prepare their students for university, as it was 20 years ago.

  111. What students need more of is physical education (daily) even if for 15 minutes a day. We have a child obese problem in our country and with the foods they eat and lack of exercise sitting in class all day is not help. Enough said

  112. I was impressed with your findings but was equally impressed with your sincerity and honesty. It would have been so easy to accept the status quo and embrace the concept that the way it has always been done should be adhered to. You gave some incredible ways to pull students into the joy of learning. I am sure you have got a ton of response. You should have. I am sure the teachers who read your article will want to employ these techniques to better educate their students. Congrats!

  113. I think I have always had empathy for the students. That’s why I think I go over the top trying to keep my classroom and my lesson interesting. Even with that in mind, I am not always successful. Using the concept of gradual release, and at the same time making the next activity an energy change, or a visual change anything to jump start the next activity. Part of my self improvement is to find ways to make my lessons interesting, and exciting. Not always easy! I love history! Sometimes I forget everyone isn’t in to it like I am in to it, so I have to work a little harder to make it fun and interesting.

  114. I can’t believe that more teachers do not know how hard it is to be a student. Watch your colleagues at meetings. How long does it take before they’re on their cell phones. What we do to kids is inhumane and not at all conducive to learning. I like your solutions!!

  115. Many folks pointed to the “known” key factors for real learning. Sadly, when teachers feel their success is measured by teaching to a set of test questions, AND they see several hundred students a day in wave after wave of courses, they don’t get much encouragement to do what most really want to do: Help the students learn to think.
    We should not just question the teachers’ training and skills, but the environment that discourages development of critical thinking and real learning. I’m not a teacher, but I was trained by my company to facilitate culture change training sessions. Almost the first guidance I got from my coach was: “People don’t learn when YOU talk. They learn when THEY talk.” I could fully practice that in my world. I don’t know that teachers have the freedom to restructure their classes like that. Parents demand results, and results = high test scores as parents obsess about getting their kids into the “right” schools.
    I had a long philosophical talk with a high school biology teacher about parent pressure. He said he had to teach five Accelerated Biology courses because the PARENTS wanted them, thinking it would make their kids more attractive to colleges. He said there was really only about one-classful of kids who had the interest and passion to move at that pace. The rest hated every minute of it and struggled to get that 4.5 that mom and dad wanted them to have.
    We parents have to change if we want teachers to change.

  116. My two oldest, high school and middle school, come home, eat and then take as long as a two hour nap. My two youngest, 6 and 2 and a half , are at home and play and interact all day with little effort or exhaustion.
    The system doesn’t need another expensive overall of when to teach and how to teach. It needs to be opened up resource-wise and given back to local control, like libraries. Kids are curious enough to learn. Its the obnoxious overlord mentality of those in charge, starting with state officials and trickling down administrative ranks to teachers that ruin it for them. One elementary teacher told me that they have so much time they are REQUIRED to teach with, no more no less, for a subject. Tack on home work and kids get burned out quick. Today is report cards for first quarter and i’m dreading it for my middle schooler, in the first year, is already having trouble completing homework. Its not new , its just early. Again sitting for six hours and then being expected to stay interested in a subject you’ve had enough of is oppressive not inspiring. Focus cant been seen as the issue. A curious, creative mind cant give too much time to a subject. It thrives on being free to act on a thought. Schooling is too restrictive to actually educate. Especially with requirements of NCLB. That needs to be eliminated, control given back to locals, teachers turned into free lancers which would eliminate those looking for a union job with good benefits and free up the curriculum. The more restrictive we are the more oppressed, crime-ridden our society. A better one is self governed and self motivated. Our school system is failing because its not about educating. Your education is not about schooling, its about you.

  117. This continues in college, especially the first two years. One of the best things I incorporated in a Freshman level class was person reflections and sharing those as a class discussion. It is amazing how much they teach each other. Most enjoy it and maybe I’m helping them develop life-long learning skills.

  118. It looks like a bunch of whining and complaining. Try working a ten hour plus day of physical labor. This is what’s wrong with our society. Millions of kids in other countries would give anything to have the same opportunity.

  119. I am 62 now, and will be 63 by the time I have earned my BA and will become a middle school math teacher. I’ve raised 5 kids and have 13 grandkids. I do my schooling online, and, boy!, do I understand the exhaustion of sitting all day, everyday, trying to learn, and then re-learn what I just ‘learned’. The most important thing I am learning, I think, is how variety of ‘delivery’, getting up, moving around, small group, large group, peer-tutor, alone and individual time all play into whether or not a student is successful and happy. I am so glad that I found this article (from a FB share of a retired reading tutor) … it puts all my text-book learning into perspective and makes it real.

  120. Every teacher should read this!!! Thank you for writing it. This is such valuable information. If all teachers had the chance to shadow a student for a day, I wonder how education would change?
    Heidi Butkus

  121. Some great points are made here. As teachers, we can talk on and on about our material, often rushing to squeeze it all into the allotted time, while our students are also watching the clock, counting down the time until we are DONE talking! We need to be mindful of what our students are going through as they sit in our class. They are talked to all the time, so let’s work to engage them and maybe make our class one of the less-miserable ones they have to sit through. No one in the class is probably as passionate about our subject as we are, and we need to remember that.
    With all this said, if we give students too much freedom (stretching, questions at the beginning of class, moving around), there are always those who will take advantage of these opportunities and make it difficult to transition back into instructional time. In a two-hour class period, that might work, but if the class is only 45 minutes long, this has the potential to be a major deterrent. Also, high school students need to learn to sit and listen– that is exactly what they will be doing in college, and their classes might even be longer! When these kids get into the work force, there is a high likelihood that they will not be entertained or get to do many different activities during the work day. So, while, it’s great for us to try to make class interesting and put ourselves in the students’ shoes, we don’t need to feel bad about having straight lectures sometimes. It is good practice for the many lectures they will no doubt face in the future.

  122. Wow! You complain about sitting all day and being tired because of it but then you go home and watch television. Your absurd empathetic attitude is what’s wrong with education. You probably ate some potato chips too while you were watching TV.

  123. And I presume that this was based on the perception of the average child. Just imagine the disengagement of one that has a learning difference. Anyone with dyslexia or written output disorder would struggle even more! THANKS FOR SHARING!

  124. Reblogged this on A Teaching Life and commented:
    I’ve read and re-read this article so many times , and learned something new with each reading. The message here, that we need to formulate ” ‘backwards design’ from the student experience so that we have more engaged, alert, and balanced students sitting (or standing) in our classes” is such an important one. This post should be read and discussed (often!) at faculty meetings. Our students would appreciate and benefit from that.
    Here it is:

  125. I don’t know if this would work, but here’s a thought regarding Take away #1: the point about the activity – if the content of the day’s study could be incorporated into the activity, that would reinforce the lesson.

  126. Great article. This year, when I evaluate teachers, I am spending one full week in their class…the same period each day. I do all the reading, writing, quizzes, tests, and I try to engage in class discussion or group work. My experiences offer wonderful insight into the learning taking place. The feedback I can give the teacher is real and is taken very seriously by the teacher. I would suggest devoting each week to a different teacher or spreading teachers over a three year cycle for larger schools. Best eval approach I have experience in my career as middle school director and assistant Head.

  127. Wish I had thought about some of this before I retired. Congratulations for bringing some much needed compassion and ideas to the front for teachers of today’s students.

  128. why do half of the negative comments say something along the lines of “real life/jobs will be hard so school should be hard”?? 😭😭 while i don’t completely agree with everything said in this article, the point of school is to LEARN, not prepare students for jobs 💀. while skills such as time management and organization are taught in school, that does not mean its purpose is to get students ready for “the real world”. just because many typical jobs have an 8+ hour day doesn’t mean that it is an efficient schedule for teaching.

  129. “Better Conversations” has brought me here in 2023. I appreciate this so much. Thanks for the insight. As an instructional coach, as much as possible, I want to highlight the student experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *