I Teach Poorly Sometimes to Get Them Ready for College

Day 83Image by Marquette La via FlickrSometimes I have to take my students into the textbook because that is what they will get in college.

Sometimes they have to do those awful, outdated labs on their book on CD because that is also what they will get in college.

Sometimes I have to have them do those awful, hard to read lessons that tell you to click here and point here because I don't want them to be so thrown off by that obtuse language… because that is what they get in college.

I know because I've researched it and my students are coming back and telling me that although what I teach them is great in the “out there – “Mrs. Vicki” lessons” that it is also great that I “prepared them for college.” (Which usually means solo using only a book technology lessons.)

Uhm. Someone in college needs to prepare kids for the real world.

The Frustrated Few
And you good professors are out there – Curt Bonk, Leigh Zeitz, Eric Brunsell and many of you who read this blog ARE doing this. But you are frustrated. Frustrated because your courses are no longer required for teachers. Frustrated because you meet so much opposition. Frustrated because you are the mavericks and not appreciated for how hard you have to teach because you use projects and don't have these obligatory 900 page tomes of paper that you teach from but that your colleagues respect.

BUT KEEP DOING IT. 

Sometimes Great Teaching includes a Little of the Not So Great
For now, I'll keep staying the course and including a wide variety of teaching methods including the occasional smattering of something I don't really care for. (Less than 10% at a max!)

But, I'll tell you exactly what I tell students.

“OK, kids, I don't really like the next module we're about to do, but you need it because this is how they do it at [college's name omitted to protect the guilty] and you'll have to do it that way. My students thank me for letting them experience this but know that it won't last long – just long enough for you to be ready… for college.”

Does anyone find this odd besides me? Colleges should be the bastion of best practice in education.

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13 thoughts on “I Teach Poorly Sometimes to Get Them Ready for College

  1. Honestly I think it depends on what college they go to. I guess that I was one of the lucky ones because only my first two years were from the book. The rest of my education, including my Master’s were pretty much hands on PBL type stuff.

    However since that was my background I’m now feeling the frustration of being forced to teach from the text in my current middle school job, not only by state and local government, but also by my administrators and parents.

  2. I find it sad, but not odd. Many of my non-education college professors had no idea about the methods you could use to teach and so just lectured and had the occasional discussion. To change that would be to require professors to take classes in education. Occasionally you’ll find a great professor who can really get you to think, and not just through a term paper.

  3. I started my teaching career in a community college–that’s where the new stuff was happening, not the universities. Both my child in grad school and my college student call me for “how to do it, mom.” I hope it is changing. Now when we go “off book” in my high school to get ready for college, my students groan.

  4. I cannot completely agree with your posting. I teach unergraduate and graduate courses in business at a private university in the NE – hard to get into, pretty high standards. For the first two years I killed myself preparing innovative interesting lectures based on case studies, recent cutting edge articles and best practices research. For 99% of the students it was completely over their heads and their feedback was that the class was too hard, took took much work and that they did not learn much. Fast forward — I switched to a text which contains vocabulary, caselets, discussion questions etc. The students are required to read the text and are tested on it. But I don’t discuss it in detail in class (20 inutes max) and they spend most of their time on how to apply what they learned. Those who don’t read the book (about half by the way in the average 40 person class which costs over $50K a year of their parents hard earned cash) are generally lost. Of those who read the text about one half participate in the discussion. So, for the rare 8 to 10 students who are involved in their education the class works well, for the 20 to 30 who prefer not to work very hard they have a text to fall back on to explain concepts. You might call that “teaching poorly”, I call it recognizing the reality of what University teaching is like these days. You might want to check out a typical college class to see what it really looks like so that you have a better understanding of why professors use the dreaded textbooks. My students who care about learning are prepared for the real world. College is not just about the class content. It is about learning to be analytical, to be insightful, to complete assignments without any followup from a professor or parent, to fight for a professor’s attention against other bright students. So, the best way you could prepare your students for college would be to interview a professor and ask EXACTLY what they do. “Teaching from a textook” doesn’t cover the wide variety of how I approach teaching, nor how many other professors approach it.

  5. Here here! The irony of us grad students in IT @ UNI, who have to learn out of TEXTBOOKS, and some outdated as much as 20 years!!!!!! Aay carumba!

  6. I teach the Microsoft Office Suite to high school students. I am always trying to find interesting or “fun” ways to teach them how to use the software but until they actually know where to click they can’t really do the projects. How do I get through all of the “pointing and clicking” without using the book? I at least go through it with them on the overhead but I know I am boring them to death!! I don’t see how they can do projects before they know how to use all of the tools in the software. Any suggestions?

  7. In my reader it only showed part of your title I Teach Poorly Sometimes to Get Them Ready For…” as a teacher in a state with high stakes testing I automatically inserted “I Teach Poorly Sometimes to Get Them Ready For STANDARDIZED TESTING. Funny what we have to compromise good teaching for.

  8. You could not have expressed my views any better, Vicki! It is so frustrating that some college professors look down on high school teachers.

  9. In my opinion, lecturing in any manner or basing instruction out of any textbook is “bad teaching”. Most people cannot learn that way anymore.

  10. As one of those college professors undergoing reeducation (one workshop at a time) I remind everyone that “you can always tell a professor, you just can’t tell them much.” By and large, the professoriat learned by reading and lecture, so they teach that way. Students who can’t learn that way (most of humanity) are deemed “poor”, “not college material.”

    At one of these workshops, we were invited to actually read a chapter in our textbook, and I found it stuffed with factoids and boxes and could see how it would be intimidating. Thus I am moving away from the text (although a significant number still want the text) in most of my classes. But this puts the burden on me to provide the “scaffold” for their understanding– I have to lead them through the “metacognition” (see what I learn in workshops?) necessary to understand the new ways of thinking I’m trying to get them to practice. And as another poster has pointed out, you get a lot of pushback when you do this.

    My plea to secondary teachers is to teach math. I don’t know how much you can get away with and still meet those national standards “they” love to test, but most of my students can’t do simple algebra. This is a life skill, and I give them real life examples and test them on this, and the majority don’t come up to a middle school level. I point out that math is a language, and while you can visit a country and not speak the language and get something out of it, the visit is vastly more rich if you can talk to the people. Math is the language of the universe– if you don’t know it, the universe will do things to you that you could have anticipated, and will be a confusing place.

    Keep rolling that rock uphill!

  11. I normally love reading your blog, but this one left me speechless. How do you feel when we college professors say that sometimes we have to reteach everything that students should have learned before they got to college? When we have to teach more than three quarters of our students remedial English and math skills? When many students have never been asked to do any form of critical thinking? When our writing centers are begging for additional funding because students cannot write sentences with subject-verb-object or create research papers with theses and logical flow. My classes use a variety of technology (including wikis, blogs, video games, etc.), but, yes, we do expect students to be able to read text material (to help us meet state guidelines in the short 16 weeks that we have have with them, since we don’t spend every day together). I think we should all be trying to work together, rather than slinging mud at how we each have to work to provide the best education possible to our students (no matter their age).

  12. I think this could be turned back at high school teachers. “I can’t teach
    because you didn’t.” Of course, these are generalizations and
    generalizations get us in trouble. Remember that many of my students go to
    junior and second and third tier colleges. Some go to first tier. So, I
    cannot call “names” but this is the truth. Most junior colleges and second
    tier colleges are teaching this way. Even some tier 1 colleges are very much
    teaching technology with a point and click book! Is it the curriculum? The
    teacher? I don’t know but I have the students who go off to college come
    back and sit down with me and have found that when I don’t have some point
    and click that they aren’t prepared for college even though I think point
    and click is a bit backwards.

    AS you hopefully know, I have a HUGE amount of respect for many college
    professors – it is a vital job! Why are they teaching this way if they are
    so good? I don’t know. It could be the same reason that many high school
    teachers are producing kids who can’t read – it could be systemic.

    But I hope that a piece like this will help us challenge the system that is
    not doing what we need to be doing.

    Know this – being upset with what we are doing is not the same as being
    upset with who is doing it. I have a ton of friends who are professors in
    college and doing great work and even if they were forced to use a textbook
    that was point and click – I would still respect them as a person if I
    disagree with what they are doing. My classroom isn’t perfect either. 😉
    Vicki A. Davis
    http://www.coolcatteacher.com
    Blog: http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com
    Twitter: @coolcatteacher

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