Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tuning Out the Teacher: #SOL16 Day 8/31

The ninth annual Slice of Life Story Challenge is sponsored by the fabulous team at
Two Writing Teachers. Thanks for stopping by, and thank you TWT! 

I tune out the teacher

when I'm bored
when I'm tired
when I don't want to listen
when I have something better to do
when I'm not interested in the class
when I don't like the subject
when the teacher never shuts up
                             won't stop talking 
                             drones on forever...


I slip on 
I put on
I plug in 
I listen to 
                             my music
                             my tunes
                             my jams

through
with
from 

                           my headphones
                           my earbuds 
                           my headset.

I tune out when my teacher wants me to tune in. 

On Friday I listened to students in speech present "Paper Bag Speeches," an introductory speech activity. I give the students a paper bag and ask them to put three school appropriate items in the bag and share with the class how each item reveals something about themselves. 

Many of the students brought their earbuds, and I've used some of the comments above to compose the "poem," such as it is. In fairness, many students talked about music as a way to relax and deal with stress, but it's the "I want to tune out" theme that really made me think.

Why do students want to tune out when they are in school? We need to pose this question and answer it honestly. I'm saddened when students tell me a lesson is uninteresting or boring. 

In ninth grade my speech teacher Nydia May Jenkins reiterated the importance of making our speeches interesting: 

Don't bore your listener. Give them a speech they will really enjoy.

That's a direct quote from a handout Miss J. gave the class, and it has been my guiding principle in creating lessons. Even when I must teach a mandated text that doesn't thrill me, it's my job to find a way to make it engaging. 

However, we must also teach our students to be interested in school, but that doesn't mean only telling them to find the subject interesting. In speech I have an easier time with this because kids get to pick their topics. If they pick a topic that doesn't interest them, that's their choice to own. The best speeches grow from self-indulgence. For example, a student who was cyber-bullied researched that topic last trimester and presented her best speech of the course. 

The paper bag speech begins with kids hiding their items in the bag and slowly revealing each one. These items help me guide students in their topic choices, but I wouldn't be able to do that if the items remained in the bag.

Similarly, kids who hide inside  music libraries funneled into their ears via a set of ear buds might as well be squatting in a paper bag. The first step in helping them tune-in is to avoid allowing them to tune-out. 
Image via Google Search: Labeled for Noncommercial Reuse

10 comments:

  1. This is SUCH a great idea, it really sets the stage for all the presentations the kids will be making through the year, too!

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  2. This is SUCH a great idea, it really sets the stage for all the presentations the kids will be making through the year, too!

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  3. "...kids who hide inside music libraries funneled into their ears via a set of ear buds might as well be squatting in a paper bag. The first step in helping them tune-in is to avoid allowing them to tune-out."

    Wow! Those lines! I teach middle school English and I too feel like I have to face this "tune out" mentality all the time. Thanks for this insight and the reframing of the question. As a self-proclaimed tech-geek, I think there are so many amazing things we can do with technology. However, when it replaces human interaction and allows us to stay so inside ourselves, that's when we need to be aware and change.

    www.amandacornwell.org

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    1. Amanda, I visited your blog and posted a comment, but I don't think it posted. I had some trouble w/ the spam filter.

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  4. I hear you! We are one-to-one Macbooks, so a lament we sometimes hear is that the kids are distracted by their computers. Well, yes, they will use the computers to surf the web if you aren't engaging enough. I do that in meetings sometimes, too. So don't we all. I think the thing that bugs me about teachers is their lack of willingness to meet the same expectations as their students have to meet. They say things like "I'm the adult," blah, blah, blah. (Not you, Glenda—you live the opposite of this statement.) My point, and I am finally getting to it—is teachers expect students to engage with boring material when they themselves won't engage in their profession and improving their teaching.

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  5. First--Amen, Dana.
    Second--this is my first speech each semester and one of my favorites because I learn so much about my kids. This semester, though, I banned their cell phone (We all know you like to text your friends) and their ear buds (We all know you like music). I told them they needed to be more specific if they wanted to talk about music and their friends. FOr the most part, they followed the "rules"

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    1. I've done a couple of different versions of the speech this year. We've made name tags and introduced ourselves w/ those and created "me-infographics." I was getting tired of the bag and needed to freshen it up. We should chat about some of the things we do in speech.

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  6. First--Amen, Dana.
    Second--this is my first speech each semester and one of my favorites because I learn so much about my kids. This semester, though, I banned their cell phone (We all know you like to text your friends) and their ear buds (We all know you like music). I told them they needed to be more specific if they wanted to talk about music and their friends. FOr the most part, they followed the "rules"

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  7. This is so very true! But at least you're aware of it and try your best to not be tuned out by creating some great lessons!

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