Education is filled with catch phrases. I like this one: Whoever is doing the doing is doing the learning.
Eduhonesty: All the confusion about the benefits of homework aside, I’d say this phrase supports homework. It supports student-led activities, graphic organizers, quick writes, and project work.
That said, I’d like to put in a vote for the much-maligned worksheet. You can’t do a worksheet without doing.
I’d also like to observe that group work always includes students who are not doing. My daughters used to hate group work because they often ended up being the doers, while other students rode on their coattails. We teach strategies to teachers that are designed to make sure all students are involved in group strategies. Honestly, many of those strategies don’t work. If a kid drops his or her ball, more motivated students simply step in to fill in the gaps. Especially when work is done outside the classroom, Ursula’s absence from group meetings likely will end up with her team mates doing “Cuba” for her in order to fulfill the requirements needed for a good grade.
We are heavily pushing student-led work and group work. Frequently, this work sounds better in theory than it works in real-life. How well these activities work varies from class to class, subject to subject and student to student.
Teachers should not be required to do frequent small-group work in order to look good to administration. My first period can work much more effectively in small groups than my last period. The student mix in the classes varies enough to affect results. My first period students are significantly more academically advanced than those in my last period. First period also has more natural leaders who value their grades.
Admin has been telling me what to teach and when to teach what they require. Here is my observation: The administrative plan seems to be working much better in my first period than my last period. I’m not sure I need more flexibility in choosing activities for my first period. The students in that class are not quite drowning as they attempt the requirements created by the outsiders who are running my school. My last period is drowning.
I wish I could take the helm. I can’t. Admin has already verbally savaged me for going off the official lesson plan. I won’t take a chance on that happening again. I march in lock-step with the others, watching my last class sadly. They deserve better than they are getting. But I don’t think I have the courage to make a stand. Any time I try to explain, my principal just barks, “No excuses!” Apparently, there are no explanations either.
Eduhonesty: Whoa, this post went sideways. I started with a cheery maxim I like. My maxim works with my first period. I guess where this post decided to take on a life of its own was that last, final class, where doing isn’t doing much good, because my students in that class can’t do what the East Coast consultants expect of them. To adapt my maxim: Whoever can’t do the doing can’t do the learning.
(I was tempted to scrap this post because it did not end where I intended to go. I’m leaving it, though. This much truth should not be expunged from the record.)