April 07, 2005

The game of school (contd)

I was thrilled to get this comment from Barbara Ganley, whose enthusiasm for blogging and reflections on teaching and learning are always a pleasure to read. Barbara commented: how do I help students who want to keep blogging bring their blogs into other classrooms or other learning experiences or out into the world?

I would ask, do they need the help? It's really a fine line between "helping" and "maintaining dependency (and authority, with concomitant apathy on the part of receivers)". I don't know enough about Barbara's situation to comment. This is just a question I ask myself almost daily in my interactions with students. Here, my colleague and I are dealing with lowly (or non-!) motivated students. Why are they so lacking in motivation? And what should we (teachers) do about it? It could be they need inspiration and guidance (a la School of Rock, which has inspired my partner in crime to write a paper on the subject of "sticking it to the man!"); but it could also be that they have had too much guidance, prescription. Getting into university is a powerful motivator for many Japanese highschoolers. Once they get in, the motivation to study disappears. They now discover they need to find their own motivation. Perhaps they are at the cusp of "extrinsic" versus "instrinsic".
I'm talking about the students' intrinsic motivation, not bureaucratic or administrative obstacles, where obviously a teacher's help can be invaluable.

Little by little something is shifting. We have to be a little patient with our students who've been trained all their lives how to play the game when suddenly we say it's not only okay to color outside the lines, it's essential to do so.

Barbara's comment reminded me of this book which my partner in crime here read recently (and very kindly sent me his typed notes on the book so I didn't have to read it! What a friend, eh?)

And, yes, it's essential for students to color outside the lines, but my concern is essential for who? From whose point of view? I ask, because I know that in my situation, urging students to do creative and "outside the lines" kind of stuff tends to be met with apathy and frank incomprehension. Not always, but often.

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