Friday, May 22, 2015

"Never question ability, always improve strategy."

There was a mystery van in the parking lot today.  There may, or may not, have been donuts in the back of that van, which were easily accessed by the remote hatch button on the keyfob in my pocket.

There are many new rules in our new high school building -- one of which speaks to the "no food in the classrooms" concern that previously resulted in critters with multiple legs or fur.  There is also very little that can be done to motivate 14 and 15 year old freshmen to stay focused when working independently on research papers.

For the last few weeks the board has slowly lost the letters to MYSTERY VAN, each time the class needed to be redirected, with the promise of a special excursion today -- the day the papers were due.

TERY VAN

There were enough letters to warrant the excursion, with everyone taking a brain break for some fresh air. Donuts were consumed on the lawn, with all evidence swallowed.

So, yes, if bribery is a crime, I'm guilty as charged.

 "Never question ability, always improve strategy."

In her Edutopia blog entry today, brain researcher Donna Wilson offers some interesting insights into the motivation behind student learning and achievement.   What can we, as teachers, do to bribe convince our students to work  at a level of competency and commitment that increases student achievement in the long run?  

How much time do we spend focusing on the HOW instead of the WHY when we're guiding students through revisions or redirection?  As I've taught the concepts of in-text citations and the wonders of the "Works Cited" page, I've felt like I should be banging my head against the wall repeatedly, if for no other reason than to celebrate when the banging stops.  Sadly, the kids feel the same way.  "Let's get this year OVER!" commented one kid.  

While I can commiserate with their pain, I truly don't care whether they memorize the indentations, italics, and punctuation necessary for each type of citation. Lord knows I have to look the formatting up myself each time I use them, switching between APA and MLA formatting in my head.

But the reality is that the course they are taking is INFORMATION LITERACY.  The skills they are proving in the research unit are related to their ability to FIND the sources necessary and APPLY that information to the task at hand.  My learning goals weren't about memorization, they were about proving the ability to navigate and utilize reliable tools.

If donuts at 8 am on  Friday before a long weekend is motivation enough to keep kids focused on the process -- to get them thinking about the resources available to them that are trusted and reliable -- then I'm all for a mystery van in the parking lot.

Because thinking about thinking is good for everybody.