Classroom Culture: A student’s perspective

Note:  I know there are only like 10 people that read this blog.  However, of all of the posts I’ve made, this is the one I think should be sent far and wide.

I was a teacher for 3 years.  Now I’m a student, in a foreign country, being a student yet again.  This isn’t about being a “lifetime learner,” because I’m stuck in a classroom with other students and a teacher.

Stuck.

I’m learning the native language in this class.  Wait, scratch that.  I’m learning how to write the native language in this class, but I’m definitely not learning how to speak the language.  You see, although there are ample opportunities to provide answers and discuss in this class, I don’t get a chance.  There are two guys who have clearly been studying long before entering the class who constantly call out answers.   So I don’t get a chance to think for myself, except for when I’m writing down things for myself.

Go back and re-read that last sentence, I mean exactly what I said.  When I start a sentence, and they finish it, despite my best efforts I CAN NOT switch back on my brain.  The moment someone suggests a word, trying to be helpful, now I just use that word.  I am an experienced learner and student.  I always try to figure out the why and how of things even after I know the “answer.”  But when it comes to speaking my mind, I CAN NOT think for myself if someone else provides the next word.

This is the reason why classroom culture is so important.  In order for every student to have the chance to learn, every student must have the chance to THINK and FIGURE OUT the “answers” for themselves.  No matter the subject, if you have students that call out answers, you’ve just removed the ability of the other students to think for themselves.  I’m not talking about motivation here, this is not about desires or just needing the answer.

So PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, in the interest of every single student in your classroom (including that chump calling out answers), require quiet private think time whenever you ask a question.  At a minimum 5 seconds.  Usually you’ll need 15s to 1 minute depending on the question.  Every single student in your class will benefit.

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