Time for another round of What Would You Do?- the truly riveting blog series where I tell you a very common and sometimes mundane situation in my life and you tell me what you would do in the same situation. Past editions include not getting a discount at H&M and reacting when a man in a Wal-mart parking lot tells me how to load my baby in the car. See? Riveting!
This week's edition is the Teacher Edition! You know, kind of like Teacher week on Jeopardy only there's a lot less money involved. (Sidenote: My dream is to be on Jeopardy someday, but I am nowhere near smart enough. My little sister is definitely smart enough so I've been trying to convince her for years to audition. I told her I'd even train her if she gives me 10% of her winnings. She said 5% after taxes and I said no thank you, you're too cheap.)
We just finished The Crucible in my class, and today I had the students do a little research on what in the play is real life history versus what parts in the play are made up to make it more interesting. We spent a bit of time talking about how to tell the difference between reliable and non reliable websites (Smoot.com- not reliable! Yahooanswers- also not reliable! Total buzz kill for those kids, I know) and then we were off to the computer lab, to research their little brains out.
I have one student who instead of working on the assignment sat at a computer in the back and doodled.
"Yo dude, where's your table you're supposed to be filling out?" I try to act all casual in front of the students, but trust me I'm freaking out inside whenever they are just blatantly ignoring classroom instructions.
"Hmmm? Table?" He replied lazily, as if I hadn't just spent the last five minutes explaining what they were supposed to be doing.
"Your table that you're supposed to be working on. Where is it?"
"Oh, that. I think I left it upstairs."
"Do you want to go up to the classroom and get another copy? They're sitting on my desk."
"Nah. I'm good."
"You're failing my class, you know." I tried to push him. "This is a core class- you need it to graduate. I'd love to see you pass the quarter, but you're not going to pass if you don't do the assignments."
He shrugged his shoulders and continued doodling.
I stared at him, wondering what I should do for a minute and then I just gave it up. I left him alone and instead wandered around the room, checking on other students. Once I was sure everyone else was successfully working on the assignment, I sat down and graded papers. My doodler was at a computer close to me. I noticed that he finished his doodle and then began googling random sentences to see what google would suggest he search. He wasn't distracting any of the other students, so I let him be.
I never quite know what to do in situations like this. Should I force my students to do the work? They are already forced to sit in my classroom, might as well force them to work on the assignment? Should I have insisted he go upstairs and get the table, and then should I have sat next to him and worked with him step by step until he finished the assignment? Is that what "good" teachers do? Or was it okay that I just let him doodle, allowing him at 17 years old to make his own choice? (Or is the fact that he wasn't interested in the assignment a clear indicator that obviously my assignments are way too boring?) A lot of the other students noticed that he wasn't doing the assignment, and I'm sure they wondered why it was okay that he did nothing while they had to do work, but I didn't say anything and they didn't ask.
This year at my school our method of being evaluated has changed. When we are evaluated, our administrators will be looking to see if our students are "actively engaged" "passively engaged" or "off task." Ideally, a good teacher shouldn't have any students "off task." Welp, my student was absolutely off task today. And I was fully aware, and decided to let it happen. I guess the question I always wonder is where is the line in teaching. At what point do I expect the students to show initiative and drive and what point do I step in and make them just do the dang work? If I let him doodle am I being a lazy teacher? Or are they mature enough to make their own decisions?
So tell me, What Would You Do?
Related post I wrote last year: I Let My Students Fail My Class.