Monday, October 04, 2010

The biggest change in my schedule is seeing high schoolers as well as middle schoolers. Being in freshman American history first hour, then scooting back to 6th grade social studies is such a phenomenal change, you would think I had moved to another planet. The maturity level difference between these two groups is remarkable. However, one thing remains constant. "Help me, I don't get it" when given independent work to complete, echoes at both levels.

Is this a learned behavior? Is helplessness trained into students? Is it they simply have no interest/desire to actually complete the assignment so whining is their automatic defense mechanism?

It doesn't matter what the assignment is. It can be a simple worksheet, two political cartoons to analyze and compare, taking notes from a science section, or any other given assignment. The first line of defense for the majority of students is "Help me, I don't get it." Before they read the directions, before they look in their textbook or other reference materials, before they notice that the problems in front of them parallel those done together in class moments, before...."Help me, I don't get it" ripples across the room.

Would changing the assignments help? Would more challenging, student-driven projects eliminate some of this reluctance to attack assignments? If students had more say in designing their own learning, could they become more independent learners?

I don't know the answers. I just know, "Help me, I don't get it" is an excuse to not try on their own. How can we overcome this helplessness and encourage independence?

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