Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What Makes Class Work

Conversation in the car driving my daughter, a high school junior, home from play practice.  Picked up midway as she was telling me about her day. (Warning:  I've started to pick and choose my "stop saying 'like'" battles.  This was one I chose to leave alone so I could live to fight another day.)

Daughter:  Ugh...and then we had history class and it was like so lame and boring like it always is...but then we had lunch and...
Dad (ever researching): Wait.  What makes history class lame?
Daughter (trying to be patient..this guy is an educator?): Dad, there are three things that can make a class interesting:  Cool subject, cool teacher, cool other students.
Dad: Ok...
Daughter:  Right? I mean either the subject is really interesting, or the teacher presents it in an interesting way, or the other students in the class are interesting and you have like interesting interactions and things to say.  If you have all three of those, that is the best.  Those are like totally the best classes.  But any one of those things by itself could help you deal with the others being lame.
Dad: I see.
Daughter: But history is lame because I am just not into what we are studying and the teacher is boring and there are no interesting kids in that class.
Dad: Are you an interesting kid?
Daughter: Daaaad.  So, like, then we had lunch....

Here in this over-caffeinated conversation with my sixteen year old was something I believe deeply about classroom teaching:  Relationships count for at least two-thirds.  In more formal focus groups and interviews, many students, not related to me, have told me like the same thing.  My words not theirs:  When the teacher interacts with them in positive ways and creates a classroom environment in which they can interact positively with their peers, they learn more....even when they don't like like the subject matter.


Marty Foley said...

I wonder . . . do I happen to know that history teacher?

Michael J. Corso, Ph.D. said...

No, actually. :)