Saturday, August 27, 2016

Thinking Qs.

Good morning colleagues!

As many have figured out (or just assumed), I am having a rough start to my school year. I am still trying to pinpoint what is causing me stress, but something that stands out, that is nagging me at the back of my brain, is "Why is this so hard?" I am still trying to figure it out, but I'm wondering if it comes back to how we get kids to think. I am stepping outside of my box with the QFT Process. In theory, it would make the kids think and process through their thoughts. In action, the kids are frustrated and are somewhat refusing to think. This leads me to have more questions than answers.
  • How can students think for themselves? 
  • Why don't students care about their education? 
  • How can we help? 
  • What can we change?
One very frustrated afternoon, I did what every person does in America, and I Googled it. "How do we get kids to think?" And Google gave me a lot of results; results from Edutopia, ASCD, Teaching Channel, Teach Thought... Then I thought to myself, how do teachers even have time to figure this out?! But my stubborn little self started reading some articles, and I stumbled across a great quote.
When grown-ups tell them how something works, kids don't question it. They act as if the adults have told them everything they need to know, and afterwards the children show less evidence of critical thinking (Bonawitz et al 2011; Buchsbaum et al 2011). 
The crazy thing is that I know this. And I've been trying to make my kids question, and think, and write, but it's sort of been to no avail. They have been taught their entire lives NOT to question, so when they aren't spoon-fed, they rebel. These mini-rebellions this year have been driving me crazy!

Any normal teacher with thick skin would have brushed this off, but I internalized this statement and tried to figure out why she was saying this and how I could make changes so students wouldn't say this. Why were they rebelling against me not lecturing and telling them the answer? Have they never had a teacher do this?

So I reflected on what I've done so far this year, what has worked, and what hasn't. Then I stumbled across another post that said something interesting, and sort of groundbreaking for me.
Of course, there are limited ways in which it is possible to learn things from others. Others can often help us get started. They can frequently point to or model the way. They can create environments, which help shorten the "figuring out" process. The anchor point is this. There is no way to teach what requires understanding so as to eliminate the "figuring out" process for the learner. When a teaching mode attempts to by-pass the processes by which each person individually figures things out, a mere illusion of learning takes place. When students do not engage in intellectual labor, they do not meaningfully learn; their learning is falsified. (The Critical Thinking Community)
I think the struggles have been due to me creating an environment that is not supportive enough (almost too open-ended) to let them figure out how to think. Students will get frustrated and will struggle, but there has to be a healthy balance, and my classroom is not balanced. I did try to add in more supports while questioning and researching this week, as it seemed to help. It's tough because the students this year are very different than last year, and I am trying new things that I haven't done before, so I don't have any answers and am figuring it out as I go. 

I'm guessing that more experienced teachers would tell me to survey my students for feedback. The problem is these kids are frustrated, and I worry what they will say. I do not have thick skin and internalize the negative comments, and I struggle with seeing the real feedback. I almost feel like I need a feedback manager who can wade through the comments for me!

I'm still thinking this year through. I like where the QFT Process is going, but I need to figure out how to make it less monotonous and engage the students while secretly making them think. I know that I am doing what's best for students in the long run, but it is a challenge to get them to see the big picture. Let's hope that this coming week is another step forward.

Thanks for reading! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
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