It seems like it was quite a long time ago that I last stood in front of a class of students and, in many ways, I am quite looking forward to doing so again this week.
I’ve had a bit of refresh over the summer and a chance to reflect on my practice and think about what’s important and what isn’t.
As usual, the summer results provided a stimulus to my thinking and, as a result, I have decided to make things a little different this year.
I am absolutely convinced that it right for students to learn how to work for themselves. As teachers we must resist the temptation to spoon-feed information and give students handouts with everything they need to know written down and highlighted for them. They love this, of course, because it’s easier for them, it requires them to learn very specific bits of information and it absolves them of the responsibility of searching for information, sifting through the stuff that is less relevant and focussing on that which is more pertinent.
But that’s the point isn’t it? They should be reading lots and filtering out the stuff that’s important. They should read books that go beyond the syllabus; it might not be tested but it provides context and stimulus to thought.
Obviously we need to guide them, and it’s absolutely right that we do so and provide as much support as we can. But we mustn’t do it for them. My mantra this year is that my students should leave my classroom more exhausted than me. They must work harder in the classroom than I do.
To achieve this I will need to be well-prepared. Not easy with my day job to do as well, but I’ve made a start over the summer and have plenty of lesson plans organised.
A simple way in which I think I can ensure that my students take more responsibility is to give them a check list to fill in.
It’s not a list of terms or content but a prompt of things they should be doing. It contains the following:
– have I read the chapter in the book on this topic?
– have I got my notes on this topic in order from the lessons?
– have I understood this topic?
– if not, have I undertaken some remedial work on it? If so, what and when did I do it?
– have I done some wider reading? If so, what and when did I do it?
– have I done some tests on the topic? If so, what, when and how many?
– have I written some essays on this topic? If so which and how many?
If my students can keep this log filled in through the year then I will know that they will know they have covered everything. I won’t have had to give them a handout or the dreaded list of definitions because they will have done it themselves. More importantly, they will know they have done it themselves. They will be less reliant on me and more self-reliant.
I know this isn’t rocket science, it’s simple stuff. But I think it’s good practice. Copies are available on request!