If I Only Had a Brain

12 Apr

The sweater was a light green argyle, nice color, great for spring.  It was made from a light material, very fine cotton, perfect for warmer weather, but not too warm, and it wreaked of my personal style elegance.  I got a coupon in my email, forty percent off one item.  I went to the website and ordered my perfect sweater.  It arrived, I opened the box, the sweater had  a hole.  Rather than wait the five to ten business days to send it back and wait for the return, I drove one hour to Banana Republic to make an exchange.  Thankfully, they had what I wanted in my size, beautiful.  I went to exchange it, the clerk looked at me and said, “That will be $22.43.” I looked back at him, “It’s the same sweater,” I said, somewhat confused, “it’s just an exchange.” “I know,” said the clerk, “but it’s ringing up at a different price.  The difference is $22.43.”  That’s when it hit me, more heavily in my classroom, work, or anywhere else in my life at that point.  Thinking is hard.

I’m very particular about how I teach English, I like the kids to write, A LOT.  The challenge is getting them to write, this takes a lot of work and time.  However, if I am successful, more than writing, I am teaching my students to think.  I often feel that when writing is taught students are given the magic formula that will cure all, the five paragraph bullet that will solve every writing problem from here to eternity.  For example, I ask my class to write a paragraph, and I get, “How many sentences is that?” Or, my other favorite, when I ask them to write an essay, “how long should it be?”  It’s not about the quality, it’s about the quantity.  The danger, student writing is not that good, but their frustration level is high as they met the perceived requirements for the assignment, though they did not demonstrate any thinking, learning, or analysis, their grade is very poor.

A good friend of mine, and a very good teacher, became so upset with one of his English classes that they wrote their persuasive essay together; and this was for a college prep class.  With testing, right and wrong answers, filling in the bubble, kids are not thinking.  They are not being taught to analyze texts, discern sources, validate links and information.  They are not being taught logic and rhetoric in a way that makes them good questioners.  Model, practice, force your students to think; or the next time you are at Banana Republic, you may get charged too much.

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One Response to “If I Only Had a Brain”

  1. ThomsonScience April 14, 2011 at 5:15 am #

    Love it!

    I just had a student ask me about a conversion from miles to kilometers on a test. I’d given them the conversion for kilometers to miles. Wait, you ask, aren’t those the same thing?
    Yep! They are the same. But in his mind, since I gave him 1 km = 0.62 miles, he didn’t have the conversion for miles into kilometers, as he expected to have 1 mile = 1.61 km.

    THINK!

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