Let’s Play School…

Today my kids had an assignment, they were put in groups and had to “act out” the phases of the moon. I didn’t care how they did it or what they used, their only requirement it to use their bodies. So cheesy activity but really shows me who and who does not know what is going on. While one of the groups were practicing and getting their “act” together a student asked me “Mrs. Dykes is this going to be graded?” This is the teacher’s most annoying question. So I answered “um yeah” and the student then went on to say “But it is not a worksheet, how can you give me a grade for it?” Ummmmmm. “Because you worked on this and it shows me what you know.” The students then went back to their groups and started pow-wowing on how worksheets would be so much easier.

[Now before I get comments on how grading is bad, I really don’t want to hear about it, I do not get a choice, I have to give kids grades and I work really hard to have them reflect what they are learning more than just an average]

Well here is my problem. My goal for my students this year is as follows: Learn. Become problem solvers. Become thinkers. You see none of that includes fill in worksheets, become better test takers, know more about my curriculum, make A’s. Yes I want them to know my curriculum but it comes with the rest of it. See I don’t even have worksheets to give them.

The question becomes this, why do they want boring worksheets? Well, it is easy. It is part of playing school. See, for years they have been playing school. Showing up in the morning, filling in worksheets with answers from the book, getting study guides exactly like the test, taking the tests. All of this usually equals an A. It becomes so easy to get in the motions of school.

Our job as educators is to get them out of this. Stop look at your grade book and your lesson plans. Are the activities focused on learning or are they part of playing school? I have been in the past been guilty of allowing this, but I can really hope that as of now, playing school will get you nowhere in this classroom. Sometimes it is as simple as going back through bloom taxonomy and making sure we are focusing on the top of the pyramid instead of the bottom.

Playing school is easy on both the teacher and the student. But easy is not always better. In reality we are cheating out students out of a real education.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Pontus Hort says:

    Thanks for a great post. Although sometimes uncomfortable, as teachers we need to make sure that students get as far away from what is comfortable and easy. Yes, this might result in some push-back, and yes, this might not always be easy, but we must remain dedicated to create independent thinkers and learners. This will look different in each subject and classroom, but there will be some common themes: an emphasis on critical thinking, problem solving, the honing of analytical skills. Although we all teach different subjects, we should all strive to instill those skills in our students, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable it might be for us or them.

  2. rpugliese says:

    I know what you mean. We’re starting a new style of math class that involves a half hour of center activities. The kids can choose which activity they will do each day using a choice board. We put more choices then days of math class so that early finishers can then go on to something else. The first week no one did anything but computer games and partner games. The next week I told them that certain activities were required and the other they should do last if they had the time. This week on Friday they kept coming up and saying “Do we have to do this activity or that activity?” I finally just started saying yes which seemed to throw them. I later used the quote ‘Reach for the moon, if you miss you will still be in the stars’ in other words do as much as you can. They seemed to get this but I wonder. My students are ten, maybe it’s too late for them to get over the idea that they only need to do the amount that will get them a grade. Or maybe I can explain to them what you put into your blog. Do you want to learn or are you just playing school? I’ll let you know how it goes.

  3. keves says:

    Thanks for your thoughts! I think it’s funny how you called this “playing school,” because so many of us can relate! I’ve realized in my own teaching that I am guilty of this, as well. It makes me think about I might have this kind of explicit conversation with my students. They could write a response to me about what they expect from school, why school is important to them, or what they are most interested in learning about. I don’t think I’ve ever requested this type of writing from my students, but it would undoubtedly be insightful!

  4. amandacdykes says:

    I love how you are going to talk to your students about this. I bet they do not know that they even “play school.” Would love to hear how it goes.

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