Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Begging for Volunteers

The assignment: read a current events article together as a class and then answer some questions based on the reading.

We were to read the article together because if we didn't, it was likely that the students wouldn't bother to read the thing at all. And I didn't pass out the questions, because I knew that if I did, most of the students would answer the questions while we were supposed to be reading the article together.

I know all this from experience. I knew that I was going to have to draw things out as there were only seven questions, and they were going to finish quickly.

Luckily, no one volunteered to read.

It's kind of scary to get up in front of a class in this situation. Most days, I can get someone to volunteer. If the class is small enough, I can just go up and down rows and make everyone read. But when I called for volunteers, they all just looked at me. No one made a move.

It wasn't like they couldn't. I have been in situations where the students did have reading issues. I try to be sensitive to that. But in this case, it was just inertia. No one wanted to do anything.

Eventually, I browbeat someone into reading. Then another long pause, and then someone else volunteered. I took some time to discuss the article, but I couldn't go into much depth as I was unsure of some of my facts (I didn't want to say something was true and find out later that I'd been lying to them).

We got about halfway through when someone asked if there were questions. Then they wanted me to pass them out, but I wasn't going to do that. We had to finish the article first.

After a while, we did get to the end. Even though it seemed like it took a long time, they still had ages to finish the questions. They got finished with everything quickly.

What I needed were index cards with everyone's name on them. Then I could shuffle and at random. I never can tell ahead of time if I'm going to get a group with eager readers or not.


  1. LOL. I know exactly what you mean! Sometimes it's like pulling teeth to get the kids to do ANYTHING. *sigh* The joys of teaching, eh?

    1. Ah yes. It would be nice if sometimes they'd meet me halfway.

  2. In China, kids are begging for an education. Here...the brats would rather text. The U.S. is headed toward oblivion as the next generation (tutored by MTV) fails to see the importance of understanding that there is more to the world than just them.

  3. In law school, our contracts professor had cards with everyone's name on it. At the beginning of the lecture, he would take five out at random and those people were "on call" for the lecture. There were roughly 60-70 people in the lecture and he didn't know all of us. Once, he called my friend Michael's name. Michael hadn't done the reading, so when Professor Iforgethisname said "Michael?" Michael just sat silently.

    We all sat silently, too, not ratting him out as actually being there.

    The best teachers are those who can get kids involved in their learning; while Michael's right, in part, teaching kids in a unique, fun, creative way makes a lasting impression and turns learning from a task into an activity. Your ideas for group reading and questions-after-reading do both, so good job.

    1. I can't take credit for the assignment. That's the joy of subbing. Of course, I can't take the blame either when things don't go so well.

  4. The longer the silence, the less anyone wants to volunteer. They don't want to be that one kid who helps the teacher. Scandalous!


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