Monday, July 11, 2011

Transparency With Students

One thing I'm wondering about for the coming school year is how much to talk with my students about the background of the logistics of teaching. Certainly many of you have said that it is important to regularly talk about the meaning of SBG to get students on board with the system. Providing outlines for units is also important for connecting the concepts to one another.

I wonder, though, how much of it just becomes "execu-speak" as in the clip above. Of course I get excited about the whys and whats of not only the content, but the teaching methods, but how much do they care about it? How much SHOULD they care about it?

How much detail should I go into when explaining why I don't take homework grades? Should I even bring up the issue that I don't think I should take off for late work, but the school put a policy in place to make me do it? Do they care WHY I'm just repeating their questions back to them and never actually giving them the "real answer" (as seen in Rhett's awesome post)? Is it worth mentioning the reason I have the classroom set up in the way I do, the reason I go out of order from the book, the reason I grade on a 10 point scale, the reason I spend hours each night after school thinking about all the little details to give them the best possible learning experience that I can?


  1. I'm sure someone smarter than me has some sort of heuristic for this, but I generally err on the side of transparency. I feel like as a student I thought a lot of stuff was done for no reason and a lot of the rules were arbitrary. I'm not saying I would have followed them all, but I probably wouldn't have been as openly hostile either.

    The main things I try to hide, and sometimes outright lie about, are stuff that set me in opposition to other teachers. I hate feeling like I'm boasting that my way is better than Mr. So and So (even though clearly it is because I'm awesome) and it's a pretty douchebag move to set my policies against his. So yeah sometimes I'll do the "It's my policy because I think it'll help you learn best, but in Mr So and So's class his policy will help you the best" kind of thing even though I don't really believe that.

    If you feel like you're being patronizing by explaining all the stuff you do I think you're wrong. Kids appreciate it.

  2. I think it shows you care about them and about doing a job that best serves them.


  3. I agree with Sam and Jason. You are changing the "rules" of the game of school to them, and they deserve a chance to understand what is expected of them.

    Plus, sharing these ideas with students sometimes give valuable feedback that can lead to improvements in policies.

  4. I agree with Sam and Jason and Bret with the following caveat: I think it's important to distinguish between the context/explanations you give and the ways in which students integrate this information into their own understanding and metacognitive processes.

    From the perspective of personal integrity as a teacher, I think it is extremely important for you to express what you are doing and your reasons for doing so.

    But you mustn't be focused on the student's receptive (or integrative) point of view. What they are able to absorb from all this is *their stuff*, and depends on their readiness, receptivity, development, etc.

    This is inherently frustrating, but inherently necessary. It's about living consistently with our belief that students must own their own learning. Part of that process is owning *your* part of the process and *not* seizing ownership of *their* part of the process.

    To put it another way, by setting up the rules, you are creating the container. If they grok it right away and get on board with it, great. But if they don't get it right away, part of their ownership requires them to learn that they need to struggle with it -- and they have to learn *how* to struggle with it.

    To do their part of the process for them is to cheat them out of an essential stage of their learning.

    I find this incredibly hard myself, because I want them to understand what to do AND how to do it -- all the time, right away, every time.

    But learning isn't like that. And wisdom as a teacher -- as well as as a human being -- is about developing a felt sense about when a student is ready and when they are not. And then it's about honoring that student's readiness or lack of readiness.

    Readiness is such a huge gift, but it's not something another person can confer on you. It may take some head-banging and frustration to develop the readiness that signals receptivity to the next quantum leap of learning.

    - Elizabeth (aka @cheesemonkeysf on Twitter)