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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6 thoughts on “Classroom Culture: A student’s perspective

  1. Hey, thanks for a great point! It’s helpful to be reminded of this from the point of view of an experienced learner. In other words, the reason this behaviour is a problem is not that students lack intellectual autonomy.

    Hope your class improves! (earplugs? 😉

  2. Pingback: Wait Time & Wait Time II « the radical rational…

  3. Sorry that I’m late to the party, but this is a great post! Talk about making it real. I need to show this to kids this coming school year.

  4. I became a student this summer after teaching 8th grade math for 11 years (algebra and geometry). I decided to retake calculus because I didn’t like it when I was 18 years old and decided I would like it now. At first, it was amazing to me that a teacher could be so into instruction with no interaction with students but I got used to it and ended up enjoying myself. i learned that if you have the right attitude, you can learn no matter what.

    Now, I have a new job teaching Chemistry instead of math. I know I have to engage my students and cannot teach like my Calc professor but somehow, it helped me to realize that learning can happen, we just have to change the attitude.

    • Attitude is definitely part of it, but that’s next to impossible to change. I can help a student (or myself) change behaviors, because those are easy to observe and modify. But changing an attitude involves what’s going on inside and all of the experiences of life are such a big force.

      Anyway, glad to hear about your switch to Chemistry, but the point of the post was really on how it’s important every student has a chance to learn.

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