Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Coin of Participation

            For the rare QBA reader who doesn’t know me in school, some pertinent information for you is that I’m quite talkative, and one thing that I do not like is being told not to talk. That statement will be explained in today’s essay. I’m going to present both perspectives on whether or not teachers should force an entire class to participate. Enjoy the ride.
Heads on Desks… Sleeping

            In no way should uninterested students be forced upon a teacher as an added burden. We’ll use my Calculus class as an example; when the teacher has over a hundred and thirty students on his roster and each of those students has a few homework assignments and tests to turn in, why would anyone who isn’t a sadist tell said teacher to do everything in his power to make students who don’t want to be there to turn in everything and focus in class? At least in my class, there are more than enough people legitimately trying to grasp the materials (What do you expect? Taylor series give me migraines) that there isn’t any real class time free for the teacher to scan the crowd and ask John Doe if he understands what the Z value for the ex series is.
            Two periods after Calculus, I have English, where I am told to shut up. Since a large portion of English is analyzing books which we do as a group, a lot of the grades come from actively discussing why the slaves in Beloved took advantage of cows and other such details of literature. I love the thoughtful arguments that can happen over different interpretations of a single word, but it’s impossible to have arguments of any length when all thirty-five students must say at least two or three things per class. I find everyone in class to be interesting people outside of class, but, to be honest, many of them could care less. It’s senior year, and it’s frickin’ English, man! Let them sleep, and let those who are interested in disagreeing on the nature of Kurtz’s hollowness have disputes that last for forty minutes. 

 Tails in desks… Attentive

            No student ever wants to go to all of his or her classes. Part of a teacher’s unspoken creed is to interest their students in subjects that never seemed interesting before. I stated in my last essay that I had a teacher open my eyes to the world around me; her only job was to make sure her students did well on the AP, but one little teacher got me involved in current events, government, economic policy, writing novels, and I’m sure she’s one of the many factors that led me start this blog which you, oh reader, are so enthralled in. She never let a student sleep in her class; everyone paid attention to every activity, and I am a product of that classroom.
            Every human has motivation issues that need to be worked around in order to accomplish a slew of tasks. In order for companies to get warm bodies into offices for a 9-to-5, they pay out a large portion of their revenue into wages and salaries, such a large portion of their revenues that it accounts for almost half of the US’s GDP. (That’s actually low. In previous years, wages and salaries have accounted for almost 55% of GDP.) Husbands do the dishes because their wives have done it so many times in the past that they know they owe something in return. That was sexist –I know– but prove me wrong. Students have an adult versed in the subject being taught lighting a fire under them in order that they don’t wake up from their daze at the end of their school career to discover that they didn’t get the grades or the know-how they desperately need to thrive in the real world.

There has to be a balance since there is no position that would make every student reach the potential they’re truly capable of. Teachers generally decide on a case-by-case basis how much participation they will require from their eager or not-so-eager audience. And a note on my statement about being a product of a teacher who forced attention from her students; I was never one of the students who needed corrected. She certainly made me see everything in a different light, but she didn’t have to force me.

-Jason Rossiter

1 comment:

  1. I want to be you for a week so I can experience being talkative and easily interested. While I'm running around in your shoes, you can chill out in mine and get a taste for things filtered through this lens. Quite curious things would spring forth, I imagine.