Thursday, May 7, 2009

Take a breath

Term Two is notorious here in QLD for a couple of reasons, but primarily because it's preceeded by the shortest of our breaks (one week) and somehow seems to catch the majority of our public holidays. It's always an insanely busy time of year, and so far Term Two, 2009 is certainly living up to my expectations.

Given that my laptop (and all associated school work) is in my husband's car and said car isn't at home right now I find myself with a few stolen minutes. Seems like a good time to reflect on a few things happening lately.

My Year 12 class began their presentations on alternate and resistant readings of their chosen novels today. It's been a rollercoaster getting this group settled - picking up a new teacher at the beginning of Yr 12 can be hard for some groups and it took this class and I a little bit to settle into a groove and form a working relationship. Thankfully we seem to have found it now and this round of assessment is going much, much better. It's not the quality of the work that's impressing me most though - it's the discussions I'm hearing and being included in about their novels. I believe it is these discussions that have been key to the students developing such sound understandings of their novels - at times they forced me to challenge my understandings and perceptions of the novels, one student even managed to spark a debate between the teachers which so far has last nearly two weeks about one novel. Needless to say, I'm quite proud of them.

Having seen the benefit of discussion for the Yr 12s I want to get the Yr 11s starting to work like this far earlier so they can benefit from it for longer. We're just starting an Australian novel unit, seems like the perfect place to start them really...

Not in their opinions.

"Miss, can't you just tell us the answers?"
"But we don't want to discuss this sort of thing, we want to just talk about social stuff."
"It's too hard."

These were just a few of the whinges I heard today while I introduced them to the concept and proceedures of a fishbowl discussion. For me it's a sign of something really wrong with our education system - they believe it's too hard to think!

However, I will persevere for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because I've seen the impact open discussion has had on the Yr 12s understandings. Secondly, because I get bored talking AT them. And finally, because I saw them all understand when I said, "I don't have the right to tell you your opinion about the novel is right or wrong. But in order for me to listen to your opinions and ideas you need to learn how to form an opinion and share it."

In most of their faces I saw they were suprised and pleased to be given the opportunity to speak and be listened to. I saw them nod in agreement when I acknowledged that this would be hard because I know they don't get asked to share their opinions much in class.

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