Sunday, November 17, 2013

Can we teach students who refuse to learn? Are we really asking that question?

Recently read a post on loafers, where a math teacher let it be known that he felt it was sad that 382  people voted "yes" that we can teach students who do not want to be taught (out of 734 votes).  Yep, I am one of them. 

The question was "If a student does not want to be taught, can we teach him/her successfully?"  Now 352 said no, and I think we all agree that you simply can refuse and you don't have to do anything (student and teacher alike). But what myself and 381 other people believe is that our job is to reach out and help find a way - and there are ways.  Though those ways are tough and not part of the "normal" school but can be effective.  The question itself is flawed.

The post also stated indirectly that if we are helping these students we must be lowering our standards. I think it is self-centered on the part of the asker to believe that we (or me) are enabling, or just passing students  - which I don't do.   I find ways for students to learn, I assess and progress.

I feel the idea that I have to lower to standards to teach "loafers" allows the asker to feel okay about giving up on a loafer student.  I think the question that was asked turns into a question about responsibility, and it cuts both ways.  There is teacher responsibility and student responsibility -- but are they really equal?  Is it a 50/50 deal?  Are a teacher and a obstinate student equal?  Should we allow a 15 year old to make a life altering decision without a ton of pressure from teachers to push them down a course of graduation?

When I hear teachers take a line of questioning such as the above question, I immediately think they are looking for a way to say they cannot reach all.  But we should accept the challenge and try- especially in math where so many students decided whether they can or cannot before stepping into the room.  It is our job to find ways.