Friday, January 13, 2012

Take Charge of Education 1

So often we say of our students that we want them to be self-guided, to know what they need, and to take charge of their own education.  Lamentably, I find that very few teachers really teach thoughtfully--although I must say that current curricula increasingly are building thoughtful teaching into their plans.

Anyway, I want to point to another method of students' taking charge: unstructured time.  Unstructured time is important in life and in teaching.  When I first began using unstructured time with my students, they hated it.  They had no idea what to do with their time.  They constantly sought approval from me.  And they whined.  I hate whining.

But I kept at it.

"You should tell us what to do!" one of my older students told me.

"If you planned better, they wouldn't be so rambunctious," suggested my husband.

Twenty minutes a week isn't much, but for those who had never been allotted free time, it seemed interminable.

"What do you think you could do?" I would counter student after student.

"Huh?" was always the answer.

"Well, what do you do if you come in early before the other students?"

"Read a book."

"Okay.  So you could read a book. What else?"

A blank stare.

"What do you do at home if you don't have anything to do?"

"I always have something to do."  And this was the problem.  It took time for them to discover that they could play games, look up topic-related videos on the computer, discuss their favorite music in English, or read and re-read their favorite books.  They could write or watch plays.  They could sing.  They could create their own videos.

They learned what they liked and what they were good at.  They learned to choose something to do.  They learned to create, to laugh, and to explore.  And it's a step toward taking charge of their own lives.

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