Sunday, July 18, 2010

Three Little Words

I've been thinking about three words of late:  challenge, accountable, and bored.  I hear them thrown about periodically, don't you?  
     Often they are used with the context of learning:  He needs a challenge.  She needs to be held accountable.  He's so bored, he needs... yada, yada, yada... blah, blah, blah.  Whenever I hear one of these words, I think about the onus that surrounds them.
     When I hear challenge (to have a claim to, invite, arouse, stimulated a demand to explain or justify), accountable (capable to being explained, discoverable, reckonable), or bored (to weary by dullness, tedious repition, unwelcome attentions), usually each scenario is accompanied by an overwhelming sense of laissez-faire or passivity on the part of the learner.  The responsibility falls on an outside source (classroom teacher, specialist, para, etc.), rather than on the learner.  I remember once reading a piece by Ron Ritchhart in which he stated, "If you're bored, you must be boring..." I wish I had a copy.  That's a great line... it speaks to the intrinsic nature of learning.
     As I think about the coming school year, I'll be pondering these words, thinking of ways to encourage a more proactive sense of ownership for my students (remember time, ownership, response, and community).  As a learner, I find ways to challenge myself... I think of ways to explain my thinking to others so that I take on the accountability to reflect and share it... And, I only wish I had time to be bored! 
     Learners can challenge themselves and recognize their own need to be accountable, first to themselves and then to others.  And, my role as a teacher is to help empower students with the strategies and skills necessary to do so.  Together, we create the classroom systems and structures and rituals and routines that develop over time... through modeling and using the gradual release of responsibility (I discussed many of these in chapter three of Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop).
     My goal this year is to nudge learners to discover ways to challenge themselves, not by "doing more" or "doing harder," but by "doing more wisely."  My goal this year is to encourage students to hold themselves more accountable for their own learning, not by being punitive, but by finding ways to document their learning independently.  My goal this year is to help students take a proactive stance during times of "boredom," not by acknowledging that boredom exists, but by making sure they develop an intellectual sense of depth that might just supersede a sense of boredom.
     Lofty goals... but attainable.  For now, I'll do a little more pondering and perhaps rent a movie or two so I can enjoy the last week or so of my summer break.  I know, how about Three Little Words with Red Skelton, Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds, and Vera Ellen (click on the title to watch the trailer, it's one of my favorites)... 
     I still have some time to ponder.  And, "pondering ain't boring!"

No comments:

Post a Comment