I want to push my students in their learning. One of my biggest and most harped-on topics is making mistakes and learning from them. A lot of times, my students are quite resistant to this, since it is uncomfortable. However, that’s my job — to make them uncomfortable and push them to learn. It’s not fun sometimes, and often times, it is downright unenjoyable for them. Then they figure it out. And it’s not so bad after all.
What’s got my goat lately, as my students would say, is that I hadn’t really figured this would apply to me. I’m all for being a lifelong learner, and I strive to be a “reflective practitioner” daily. I’m not entirely sure why I figured that learning shouldn’t also put me out of my comfort zone. I didn’t really realize it until Wednesday this week.
On Monday, we began analyzing budgets. I partnered with my friend who teaches math in Ituna, SK, and we created a budget swap. Each class prepared budgets, then we swapped budgets to analyze. If we were in university, we would have totally gotten A’s. No doubt.
On Tuesday, I handed out the budgets from Ituna. The students whined and complained. They were a bit of a disaster. They didn’t know where to start (despite my awesome handout). They didn’t want to work. They didn’t want to exist in a productive fashion. To say the least, I was really rattled. I nearly scrapped the project on Tuesday, but I thought I’d give it one more day.
Wednesday rolled around, and just as the bell was ringing, I could feel myself cringing at the thought of what was to come. If Tuesday was any predictor, I was in for a hell of an hour. I took attendance, then asked the class if they had any questions before they got to work. The only question was, “Miss Thibeault, I think we should just talk today. Can we not work at all?”
Ugh. Weighing the options, I cut a deal. “You can have a ten minute break to talk/text/whatever so long as you work hard for 30 minutes.” To my surprise, they all agreed.
Surprise number two followed shortly. My students started asking me really good questions about budgeting. They were going to town on the budgets they’d received. Here I was thinking that I’d failed them as a teacher, that they hadn’t learned a thing about budgeting and were destined for homelessness, and they start working together to reconstruct and revise these budgets. They were commenting that some people needed to “re-examine their expectations for their life.” I may have laughed out loud, since many of them overlooked that key piece in their own budgets.
Surprise number three happened 31 minutes into class. I glanced up at the clock. No one even noticed that the most productive thirty minutes of their lives whizzed by without them noticing. One student noticed ten minutes before class was over. I agreed to let them take a break for the last few minutes, but to my surprise number four, almost no one packed up. Their conversations revolved around the budgets they were analyzing.
I guess that was a really long-winded way of me saying that it was really uncomfortable for me to learn the lesson of perseverance in the classroom. But, boy oh boy, did it feel fantastic when I learned it. My friend and I invested a lot of time and energy in creating this wonderful learning experience for our students. I’m so glad I stuck with it. Maybe I really do know what I’m doing, even if it isn’t comfortable all the time.