I’m finishing Year 15 as a teacher, and right now, I’m at a low. My students are sleepwalking to graduation. They’re done when I’m just getting started.
Being negative, though, gets me to reflect on what makes a successful class. It’s pretty easy, actually. Here are the three ingredients, in order of importance:
1. All students come to class every day.
This builds a common experience.
2. All students are nice to each other.
This builds a safe learning environment.
3. All students turn their assignments in on time.
This accelerates learning.
Pretty simple, right? I wish. This year, attendance has fluctuated. I can’t have a successful class unless there’s a common, shared story. Even if absent students follow up when they miss class, they’ve missed the experience.
Though I’ve struggled with attendance, I’m happy to report that my students have, in general, been nice and respectful with each other. There’s no way to teach if that’s not happening.
Unfortunately, my students have had trouble turning in assignments on time. Tonight, for example, I received 18 out of 23 essays on time. That’s horrible and inexcusable. This phenomenon puts the student behind, makes me backtrack, and prevents the class from moving forward. Similar to #1, it hurts the common experience.
I’m old-fashioned when it comes to good teaching and learning. Despite my interest in technology, and despite my realization that we might be heading into more asynchronous learning environments, I believe that the best classes still include a group of students and a teacher thinking and working on something together.