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Thursday, January 15, 2015

On "Pick-Up Lines" for Classroom Discussion

This year teachers at my school have been given the above poster to hang in their rooms.  I'm guessing it's Common-Core aligned.  Since I share rooms with other teachers, I didn't personally do the honors of hanging any of them.  You might think me lazy, but au contraire.   I have been working my mind over them a bit.   I guess they're meant to generate polite and elevated discussions. Yet, the underlying assumptions worry me.   "Do you agree with           me       , but for a different reason"?  Perhaps, you "don't think that is fair to say because _______________."

The posters seem to assume that students do not know how to talk to each other.  I have not personally observed this phenomena.  Perhaps if I currently had a foreign-born class, there might be more impediments.  But, in that case, I don't expect this poster would help.  What kid would use his precious time to translate all this stuff when there is so much else swirling around him in the classroom?  I will inquire tomorrow, lest you corner me and ask, "What is your evidence?"

It's not impossible, but it seems unlikely that a student at a loss for words will suddenly turn in desperation to this poster and find inspiration.  How many people will actually take the time to read the poster?  And, if they do, what will they make of it?  Will they be as confused as me?   "Could someone help me understand....?"

Although I know the poster is well meaning, I doubt it will serve a useful purpose.  In my mind, it seems to speak more to a loss of faith on our part in the ability of our students to communicate with each other and, perhaps, even for teachers to model correct responses.  If you "have a different idea about that," please feel free to let me know.  I'll just be hoping you can get beyond these class-discussion "pick-up lines."  By the way, "Do you come here often?"

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