Decisions, decisions

I teach sophomore level chemistry and my students are working on Slam Poetry in their Honors English class.  This assignment has been all they really had been talking about all week.  Thank goodness I run a blended learning model with my Flipped Classroom otherwise I would have been wasting my time trying to teach last week.  Now, I have no idea what Slam Poetry really is.  My students tried to explain it and my wife says Rap music is slam poetry, but that really means nothing to me.  All I got out of the explanations was that it is poetry that is usually negative, but with an uplifting idea at the end, and it doesn’t have to rhyme.

Well, one of my students decides to write hers about how her teachers are stifling her creativity.  She goes on and on about how she wishes her teachers would let her learn about things she is passionate about, about how school is nothing but grades and society believes that high marks equals intelligence when really students can just cheat or extra credit their way to the top.  I read her poem, stepped back and wanted to applaud her.  I told her that, besides the fact that she is going to anger her teacher because the poem basically says the teacher is boring her and forcing to do assignments she hates, that she has found the exact topic that major educational reforms are trying to make.  School needs to be focused more on learning than on completing assignments.  I continued to talk with her and her friend about how teachers disguise creativity in projects by letting the students pick their partners or the method of presentation, but they said the real creativity comes from picking the assignment itself. 

So, I posed them a question.  Justin Tarte likes to make very philosophical educational comments on Twitter and his blog and a few weeks ago he made a comment about whether we, as teachers, believe that if given the choice of whether to come to school or just learn at home that students would voluntarily come to our class to learn.  Well, I presented this idea to these two girls:  if given the choice would you come to school or just learn whatever you want at home?  One girl said flat out that she loves to learn and would come to school because she is required to attend.  But when I reminded her that she is no longer required to actually enter the building and can still learn, she didn’t know which one she would choose.

The student who wrote the poem (and I have asked her for a copy to post here so keep checking back) said immediately there were only 2 classes she would actually come to school for, mine being one of them.  (I find this funny as the beauty of the Flipped Classroom is you don’t have to be in the classroom to still learn the material.  The classroom is for the 1 on 1 interaction with the teacher)  Both students agreed that they wanted to be inspired; they wanted a teacher who was going to motivate them to take their learning to the next level. 

This last comment threw me.  Do I inspire students to take their learning to the next level?  I know I have strong instructional technique and I try to be innovative to keep the material interesting, but are my students just going through the motions in my class or are they motivated to do more?

I would love to hear how you are inspiring your students and how they inspire you.

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