Today I met my seniors for the first time since their disastrous test. I mean Disastrous. I think only 20% passed, and believe me the passing boundaries are low on this thing: way under 50%. I asked them to consider what they could do differently, and also how I can improve teaching strategies. As I suspected, the students said that they wanted more “traditional” teaching with me explaining new material and them practicing a few problems. Less investigations, less open-endedness, more of me just showing and them repeating. So I did that, on Geometric Sequences, and they loved it. “I understand something for the first time this semester!” was one memorable exclamation from a usually sullen student.
I hate this. On one hand, fulfilling their request will save me 90% of the time I usually put on planning their lessons. I’ll have more time for my honors students, many of whom enjoy the challenges they get in class.
On the other hand, this feels like existential suffocation. What’s the point of me spoon-feeding the seniors stuff about trig functions, logic and all the other interesting topics we before us, if all they are doing is trying their best to put in least amount of effort to pass the exams? Teaching loses its meaning and joy.
I’d like to find ways of still teaching for understanding, teaching for developing logical thinking and curiosity, but I’m afraid that any attempt to do so will feel threatening to these students, who crave only the safety and ease that direct instruction can provide.