Loving It

images-21.jpegMrs. Chili is very happy right now. I’ve got a couple of really good groups of students this term.

While I’ve only seen my Monday/hybrid kids once so far, my distinct impression of them is that they are a good bunch of kids. No one gave me that “uh-oh” feeling (you teachers out there know what I’m talking about – you can just tell the kids who are going to present, shall we say, consistent challenges) and, in fact, a couple of students radiated some really good vibes. Now, their homework deadline isn’t until Saturday at six p.m.,* so I don’t yet have an idea of how compliant they might be compared to last term’s hybrid, but I’m holding out optimistic hope.

My Tuesday/Thursday group is GREAT! We had a fantastic class on Tuesday, and today’s meeting was even better. While I was missing a lot of kids (only 17 of 27 showed up), we still managed to have a couple of really fruitful and dynamic conversations. I’m really loving that there are only a few – two or three at the most – who are reluctant to just chime in with the answer to a question; instead of having to call on people and dragging answers out of them, I had to direct conversational traffic because too many people were talking at once. I love it when that happens because, while I’m not afraid of silence and will stand there for FAR longer than students are comfortable waiting for an answer, I much prefer having to referee conversations than listening for crickets.

I’m also loving how neatly the planets aligned for me this term in that Don Imus got himself fired over remarks he made about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. All of this is happening JUST as we’re having class discussions about cultural diversity, sensitivity and freedom of speech in the public forum. We had a lively discussion this morning about Mr. Imus’ behavior (and the behavior of those who are reacting to it) and I’m betting that the students got a lot of useful thinking out of that conversation. These kids were willing to think, willing to challenge each other, and willing to concede that there may not be a “right” answer. It was exhilarating.

I love my job.

*for those of you keeping track, this term’s deadline was moved up because I have to post attendance on Saturday. I was supposed to post attendance on Saturday LAST term, too, but I gave my kids the Sunday deadline before I was aware of this. I HATE going back on my word to students, so I took the little, red, “your attendance is late” notices so they could have the extra 24 hours….

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3 Comments

Filed under success!, Teaching

3 responses to “Loving It

  1. bowyer1

    Students generally wait to answer for two reasons.
    1) They are afraid of being wrong.
    2) If they wait long enough someone else will answer (and that person is often the teacher).

    I never have a problem waiting for students to answer a question. I simply tell them, “I can wait for an answer; I am getting paid.”

  2. Bowyer1, your comment reminds me of an anecdote of fieldwork in Australia I heard a few years ago. I hope it isn’t too long and off-topic (like most of my comments here).

    This highly experienced Australian Languages expert was working on a language (can’t remember which, but most likely it was Murrinh-Patha) and he was doing a little bit of basic wordlist work and asked “That frog, that green one, whatchu call him?” He received no answer. Not even any acknowledgment that he’d even asked a question. Then, two weeks later and completely out of the blue, this bloke was walking past him and said “Jabalng¹”. “What?!” replied the linguist. This bloke elaborated a bit ‘That frog you asked about, we call him jabalng.”

    In this culture, the conversation is directed by the hearer, not by the speaker, as in our culture. If we are asked a question, etiquette demands that we either answer, or at the very least make some sort of gesture showing that we know a question has been asked of us. In this culture (and probably many aboriginal Australian cultures, back in the good old days at least) it is the opposite, the hearer directs the conversation and may optionally answer or not. Conversely, it is considered rude (as rude to us as not responding to a question at all) to pointedly ask a question of a particular person. Questions are better expressed in a general manner, allowing anyone in the community to answer it if they think they can, with no restriction on time. And therein comes my point. You can wait an incredibly long time for a response; the longest this particular expert has heard of someone waiting for a response to a question was a couple of years.

    ¹I don’t know the Murrinh-patha for Green Tree Frog, so I’ve put the Wagiman word in instead.

  3. Heh, Bowyer; my response is “I already have MY degree – I know this stuff already. I’ll wait for YOU to figure it out…”

    WOW, Janari! I don’t know if I could wait THAT long, but I can certainly wait longer than my students.

    I’m trying to get my head around the idea of listener-directed conversation, and I don’t think I’m succeeding; I can’t really imagine how that would work. Isn’t it fascinating how we can all function in such different ways!

    I have a very dear friend who often takes his time answering questions, and this can be really disconcerting, particularly while we’re on the phone. I will sometimes send out an “are you still with me” while I sit on the other end of the line, waiting for a response. He doesn’t use some of the cues that are customary – he doesn’t say “well…” or “um…” or “let me think for a second…” – and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing (I know a lot of people who are trying to break themselves of “um” in particular), it can be a little off-putting to be met with extended silence after asking a simple question like where to meet for lunch.

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