Good advice, bro


I saw this image on Pinterest the other day, and it really got my goat. I’m not sure if Michael J. Fox really said this (I hope he didn’t), but somebody said it, and that somebody had the wrong idea about teaching.

People who have never been teachers, or who haven’t been in the classroom for a while, seem to think they know more about teaching than the teachers do. Oh, just teach the way kids learn? Why have I never thought of that?!? Thank you, Michael J. Fox, for pointing out that totally-not-obvious idea.

Teachers are trying to teach the way kids learn. In my classroom, I do traditional lectures, online-based learning, and team-based games. There’s something for everyone. Still, about 1 out of every 3 of my students are failing. This used to make me upset, until I read this article that says it’s status quo for 30% of students to fail Algebra I on the first try.

Why, then, are my students not passing? Why is it that they can learn how to become experts in Flappy Bird, but they can’t become even so-so mathematicians?

It’s because those same students are willing to stay up all night and invest hours in practicing Flappy Bird, but they won’t spend even 20 minutes doing their math homework. They won’t even give me a full 90 minutes of class time without zoning out, talking to a neighbor, or falling asleep. They won’t stop in for a tutorial session once or twice a week. Of course they don’t “get” math. They aren’t trying to get it.

So it doesn’t matter how many games we play, or how many Dum-Dum lollipops I hand out for working math problems, some students just don’t want to learn. If I had to guess, a love of learning wasn’t instilled in them early in their lives. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to do much to change their outlook in just 90 minutes every other day.

My final thought? Parents need to do a lot more at home to get their kids excited about school. Parents (should) spend a lot more time with their kids than the teachers do, and parents have much more affect on their children’s beliefs, habits, and work ethics than teachers can. When the parents get more involved, the teachers (and students) will have more success.


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