Let all the evil that lurks in the mud hatch out

When students ask “did I miss anything important on Tuesday” or its correlate, “will this be on the test,” they are offering a peek at the creepy-crawlies under a rock most teachers would prefer not to turn over.

The unstated premise is that the class is only a series of exercises in hoop-jumping, trivia of two types: on the test, therefore given use-value only by arbitrary curricular requirements; and not on the test, useless altogether, a complete waste of time.

The fact of their presence in the classroom means that so far in their educational careers they have been pragmatically right, at whatever level of performance that particular classroom represents. The job for good teaching is to change the game so that the way they were right doesn’t work for them any more.

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5 Comments

  1. Nice. I’m not a teacher (but a student) and it is always troubling to here the question, “um, will this be on the test?” It always creeps up when we have gone a little deeper into a thought than usual.

    In one of my current classes, people often copy down what the teacher writes on the board word for word in their notebooks. And when something shows up on a test or quiz which isn’t in their notes the complaints come in thick, and we have a class discussion about whether or not the test/quiz was fair. It is as if these students think that what has been written out and neatly (Graphically) organized for them is fair game, but what the teacher says in lecture is just time-wasting babble, the unwanted eccentric product of the professors enthusiasm or something.

  2. Hi Eric – “the unwanted eccentric product of the professors enthusiasm or something” is a great line.

    I think the model is that education is something that’s being done to them, or at them, by the unfathomable school folk and their bizarre apprentices (that would be you), and the goal is to minimize the damage of the collision. Given some of the education I see around me and its effects, I don’t even necessarily disagree. But it does mean that teaching and learning is a much more complicated little process than spraying wisdom onto rows of happy sponges from the front of the room.

  3. Carl, it’s funny you mention this, a couple of my professors wrote on their syllabuses that you’d be asked to leave office hours if you came to ask “Will this be on the test?” or “Did I miss anything important on X-day?”

  4. Fine, but they don’t read the syllabus. If you do you’re one of the bizarre apprentices. When the kiddos come at me with this stuff I usually wonder aloud why I would waste more than an hour of their and my time in the classroom if I could sum up all the important bits in five minutes and we could all go play. At least this suggests that my eccentricity is not so extreme that I do not understand the value of play.

  5. Pingback: Just do it? « Dead Voles

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