Thursday, September 27, 2007

Shut up and let me teach!

I have just been up to my sons' school, where I bumped into my elder son's science teacher and she stopped me for a chat. Her head of subject had recently told me that she had complained that my son was constantly "winding her up" during lessons, so I asked about this. I have a particular concern in this area, since this woman has taught both my boys before and they have both hated the experience. In the light of the fact that my older son wants to study physics at university in due course, it is important not to have the subject "killed" for him through problems with the teacher.

It seems that he constantly bombards her with questions - that he wants to know this, that and the other thing. She cheerfully told me that during today's lesson, she had finally lost it and yelled at him, "Will you shut up and let me bloody teach?!"

With my younger son present, I didn't rise to the bait, but I am still reeling.

How can it be a bad thing to have a student who is brimming with enthusiasm and curiosity? How is it not teaching to answer the questions that child asks?

Believe me, I do appreciate that there are restrictions on a classroom teacher within a curricular driven system. Nevertheless, I wonder how anyone can still have so closed an approach in this day and age.



Cammy Bean said...

I'm just reading Michael Allen's Guide to e-Learning in which he gets into content-centric vs. learner-centric design. Sounds like your son's teacher is focused too much on the content.

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher said...

I think where questions go over the line is when they show the student isn't listening. I have some students who won't let me finish and immediately raise their hands when I am about to answer the question.

I also have one student who is so full of questions that he doesn't get the task at hand accomplished.

I wonder if your son's teacher would allow a digital recorder in the classroom . Ask her to have one and record and share it with you so that you may coach him on appropriateness.

Often it is somewhere in between the two. But, as a teacher, questions are great and I love them -- but my one particular student who asks so many questions -- often off subject -- I ask him to keep a list and I will answer his 3-4 most important questions at the end or when I take a breath -- that way he can select the questions that are most important and also can mark them off when I answer them.

I find that this student wants to interrupt and ask b/c he is honestly afraid he will forget it. Keeping a list frees him up and me up so that there can be continuity of thought and then questions as appropriate.

Just some thoughts. I do think her response was not appropriate but then again -- we don't know what else is going on in her life either -- teachers are human too -- may be she is under some pressure that isn't known.

best of luck, advising our children with teacher struggles can be tough.

Anonymous said...

Cammy: That was my feeling. To be fair, I think teachers have little choice, driven as they are by curricular requirements. It is one of the school "rules" that every learner has the right to learn and every teacher the right to teach. Sadly, I think for some teachers that means having the right to impose their idea of teaching on a class of unwilling learners.

Vicki: I think you may have hit the nail on the head, here. Even outside of school, my son boils with questions - he always has. And, if he doesn't ask them when he thinks of them, he forgets what they were. He gets really frustrated by this, because he feels he has lost the opportunity to learn something. I'll tell him about your suggestion and see if he can acquire the discipline to master that approach. The thing is, he has has a mind like a trap when he is interested in something and, if he gets the information at the moment his interest is at its peak, it stays with him, but if he gets information when he is not interested, he seems to put it through his mental shredder!