My point however is that when out of the class I am no longer the “all mighty holder of all truths Mathematical, Sciencentific and French;” the stakes are low in their interaction with me beyond my door and that layer disappears. I have taught some of my favourite science, math and French lessons at lunch and afterschool simply because I have students that are a) not scared of being tested, and b) genuinely interested in the learning that is occurring. They have no reason to be there other than sheer curiosity. The other benefit of being outside of the scheduled class time is that students become much more candid. Since they are not worried about the correct answer, they therefore reveal much more of their true thinking, worldview, and understanding.
In the particular moment that prompted this post, I was chatting with a group of students made up of a number of boys who were winded, red in the face, and generally exhausted. The matter was that they had walked during their run in PE, and as a result had to run the route again. This was a BIG DEAL, because it meant that any time that they spent on this second run, was time spent away from lunch hour. The boys then exclaimed, “We got our fastest time of the whole year today!”
I replied, “Great! Now you know how fast you can really run!” This remark was met with many a disgruntled face. One girl in the group said, very sincerely, “Mr. Piccini, that’s not how it works. You see, what you do is you run just hard enough to make it look like your trying, but that you know you can improve your time later on, so on the record it looks like we are improving.” This amount of utter honesty almost shocked me.
I then asked her, “Why don’t you just try your hardest and actually improve your speed?” to which she promptly said, “There’s no point! Put me in basketball or soccer and I will run because there is a point to that game, but regular running, there is no point to that.”
This is what really hit home for me. These students were not lazy, nor were they rebellious; they saw no point in running for the sake of running, and therefore they labeled it as something that could be done with just enough effort to get the teacher off their back. I wanted to tell them about the physical and mental health benefits, the conditioning for sports, and the pleasantness a good run can have, but I realised like so many other lessons a lecture was not the way to show them the point.
This got me thinking about my class. In Science, Math, and French have I shown my students the point? Do I make it clear to them everyday why we are doing this? More importantly do I create for them moments and opportunities where they realise ‘What the crap? This is something I need to know now,’ because it is not enough simply to tell them. Necessity is the mother of all invention, and when we put students in a state of necessity, they are no longer receivers, but they are seekers and inventors. I want to nurture a generation of such students, because once they become true seekers “the point” becomes moot; when they become seekers they do not need to hear the point, because as seekers, they now have a new responsibility: they must create their own point.