Dealing with the fear of being a boring teacher.


Guest Post: A Student (Senior)

I hope it is obvious that I did not write or edit the following quote in any way. This was submitted voluntarily by a student, and I promised him that I would post it here.

A note from Mace:

Hi, I’m Mace Windu and I’m a student in Mr.Cornally’s class and obviously Mace isn’t my real name. I have decided to do a guest blog to talk to many of you teachers who feel that some of the methods discussed on this blog are unable and ineffective of working and creating a college ready high school student.

The first topic I would like to address is the style of grading which Mr.Cornally uses. I feel that THIS IS THE BEST GRADING SYSTEM I’VE EVER HAD!!!!!! In many of my previous math classes leading up to calculus, many of the teachers simply visited material, assigned graded homework, tested on that subject, and then left that skill we had just learned to rot in the back of our brains. With this system of not grading homework, and quizzes that can be made up at any time throughout the semester, it allows a student to be more independent in their work, and forces you to learn all the material and keep it fresh in your mind each day you come to class. The fact that this homework style makes you become your own boss of time management is very important in preparing a student for college. Even though the amount of contact with faculty is far great then a student will have in college, it is more appropriate for a student at this age because it is a lecture setting where becoming a good note taker and question asker are your tools to success. Having homework not graded and having more emphasis on quizzes and tests it makes me as a student feel that learning all the material and being able to recall it at anytime is what makes this system so successful in my mind.

Another aspect that makes this class successful is the fact that when we are given quizzes and test that the question are some of the hardest problems possible for that specific area of learning. As a student I feel that making sure you know the hardest material makes doing the easier problems a breeze. It helps me understand that any problem can be solved even if it takes 2 pages to complete.

I decided to do this guest blog not to sing the praises of my teacher or write some phony post in order to try and convince you that he is good at what he does. I wanted to blog because I feel that this style of teaching is very beneficial to all students who are revealed to it. It makes me more confident as a learner that I have the tools possible to succeed in and out of the classroom. The idea that becoming your own critic when it comes to improving your grade and studying is what makes this system so awesome in my mind and I know that it will help me beyond my high school days. I hope that this post in some way helps people realize that this system could help create a life long impression on students who wish to succeed in college and in life.

Here are the things I took from that:

  1. A little embarrassed at how much he seems to be into SBG. I hope I haven’t created monsters.
  2. I love that he used the term “forces you to learn all the material.” +1!
  3. He sees himself as the “boss” of his studying. Awesome.
  4. We may need to hit grammar/diction a bit harder…
  5. I didn’t know they thought of me as a lecturer. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Shawn Cornally • May 14, 2010

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  1. David Cox May 18, 2010 - 10:43 am

    My comment wasn’t meant to be a challenge to the system. I use SBG in my own classes as do the other teachers in my department. I’m a huge fan. My question stems from the fact that many of our students (7th & 8th grade) have struggled with this new found freedom. They still want to be told what to do and the fact that they actually have a choice regarding doing homework or not, which skills to work on, etc. and this has caused a crisis of belief for these kids. I think that the crisis is a good thing, but some aren’t sure how to handle it.

    My “advanced” kids have had mixed responses. Those who have pretty good habits of mind struggled at first because of the learned behavior of hoop jumping, but figured out how this process actually benefits them and are doing great. Those who have lazy habits of mind, but were really good at finding patterns and were therefore considered “advanced,” have struggled.

    No need to prove me wrong by having a freshman write a review; you don’t have to convince me.

    I’m just wondering how your kids on the fringe are taking to it.

  2. Anna May 18, 2010 - 7:04 am

    As a former indoctrinated calculus student, I will be the first to admit that I would have never wanted my teacher to implement something like SBG. I had had 13 years of practice at memorizing patterns, cramming for tests, and promptly forgetting old material after my singular test performance. I think it is pretty telling that a student at this age (especially a student who has obviously gotten good at the system) has so quickly come to appreciate the benefits of breaking out of the traditional mold, even though that may mean extra work, self-directed learning, and less reliance on memorization.

    Also, I don’t think anything prepares you better for college than learning to become the boss of your own time and learning. It can be a startling new luxury that is easy to abuse, without practice.

  3. David Cox May 17, 2010 - 11:26 am

    Do you think that having a calculus/physics student give their opinion on SBG kind of stacks the deck? I mean, these kids are already on their way to college and are just begging for someone to let them take ownership of their learning (obviously there are exceptions).

    I’m wondering how a sophomore taking algebra 1 feels about the system.

    • Shawn May 17, 2010 - 6:59 pm

      @Cox: No. Not at all, actually. Having a student at the end of their indoctrination by the ridiculous summative-obsessed system report on how easy it was to become a real learner sounds like the perfect endorsement of the system to me. I’m having a freshman write about it just for you!


  4. Rona-A May 16, 2010 - 9:40 pm

    I mostly agree with your approach and have found myself leaning towards SBG. But let me play devils advocate here…if a student breezes through your class and is “the boss of their own time” is that preparing them the best for college? I mean what if they get to an increasingly difficult course in college and are not making the choices because they think they can get by without putting in the work? Do they just fail?

    Also this provides great insight into what your students are thinking from an educators point of view…much more useful than “course evaluations” where the student checks yes to everything and writes “NA”…overall keep it up!!

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