I took the entire class period yesterday and today really trying to combat student apathy. Oddly enough, Garnet Hillman wrote an interesting piece on student apathy the same day, but tackling the idea with Danny Hill's ICU / Brick House model (I need to read his books!).
Today, I (mostly) followed the plan I wrote about yesterday:
I told the students that my goal was to remain out of the conversation as much as possible, and that I would only interject if I felt that it was really necessary
We have a seven period day at our school. I have my duty during 1st period and my prep during 2nd period.
3rd period is my advanced 9th grade physical science class. The students completely got out of the readings what I had hoped they would. They discussed the need for hard work, leadership, humility, choosing difficult classes instead of easy classes in HS and college. They decided spontaneously to do quiet finger snapping applause when someone said something they thought was really deep - that was kind of fun! The discussion was great and I couldn't have been more pleased.
4th period was pretty much a disaster. While I asked the students yesterday to slowly and carefully read the entire article, I think a large number of these students stopped thinking after the first sentence which says in part that, ". . . Google had determined that 'G.P.A.'s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless.' " Well, that led many groups to come to a consensus that they shouldn't go to college and grades don't matter at all. Ugh. Not what I was going for. I had to do a lot of damage control that period, and I anticipate that I'll need to do some more in the coming days. Sigh.
5th period went well. I prefaced my instructions with a short bit of guidance, letting the students know that if all they got out of the reading was that they shouldn't go to college and that grades don't matter, they missed the point, and that I was not interested having them take that approach to their conversation. Their discussion went well, although they weren't quite as willing to have a back-and-forth in the large group setting.
6th period was amazing. While presenting, one of the students said something about "when we get out into the real world", which tripped my trigger, so I raised my hand to interject. I strongly believe that students are in their own "real world" and that their K-12 education is just part of their real-world journey, so that's what I said. That opened a giant can of worms. Many students felt like they are more in the real world than others due to family circumstances, lack of parental support, or needing to work already. Some students were surprisingly willing to talk about education and work-related struggles of family members. A big disagreement was centered around motivation and who motivates or is responsible for motivating the students. One young lady wrapped up the conversation nicely, and I paraphrase here: "Even though we all may have different viewpoints on this, at the end of the day, no matter who has tried to motivate us - teachers, parents, or anyone else - we students have to make the decision whether or not we're going to work hard every day." She received some deserved applause.
7th period also went well, but I have a few students who tend to attempt to dominate conversations on a regular basis, which also happened a bit today. I need to figure out how to channel that energy better. One group brought up the idea of grit, and a good conversation was had on that topic by the students.
At the end of each hour, I asked for feedback from the students. I handed out a half sheet of paper with these questions:
Tomorrow, I'll post representative samples or perhaps just a summary of the feedback I receive.
All said and done, today was a good day. Back to ionic bonding tomorrow! :)