“The Best Teachers…” Alexandra K. Trenfor

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Honestly speaking, very little.

Even before the exam-based assessment, we’ve been telling them, “This is what we expect from you”, “Do things this way”, “Do things that way”, etc. etc.

Like, in English, take for instance, the 5 paragraph essay. It’s the one with the Intro-Body-Body-Body-Conclusion. Yeah, it gets the job done, but ultimately, it’s a really weak bare-bones kind of a essay that doesn’t prepare students for college.

Testing has some part in it. It’s much easier for students to pass a test if I tell them, “Key points in bold from Chapters 2,3, and 4 will be on the test.” because then that’s exactly what they’ll do. If I tell them something like, “Explain in your own words how you would address the problem of non-point source pollution of watersheds.” they just don’t get it. Because they’ll tell me all sorts of excuses, which ultimately say, “I haven’t been told what to think about this”.

And I terrify my students. I never tell them, “This will be on the exam, so focus on it.” I tell them that they’ll have to think for themselves, which is something that a lot of students have problems with. Social media telling them what’s popular and what’s not popular, television and magazines telling them what to think is ‘good’ and what’s ‘bad’.

While performance based assessment might be a part of it, it’s a whole slew of problems, both in and outside of the classroom. They just don’t know how to think for themselves. They want to be told, “If you see this, then do that”, like a simple machine or a jack-in-the-box toy that you simply crank. They don’t understand that learning requires abstract thinking far beyond the mechanical skill of being told, “If this, then that.”

And I’m sure many of them have passions or hobbies outside of school. Some of my students work at an auto-shop and others garden. But it’s difficult for them to translate that over to school. That self drive and motivation to study car maintenance and repairs on their own disappears when they walk into a school. It’s like they expect schools to operate in a set manner and can’t bring their outside skill set into the classroom or vice verse.

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