Just Practice It Again and Again and Again

“You’re going to practice it again and again and again and again. . . so there’s a chance you can finally do that level of work.”

Words taken directly from the video “From the Page to the Classroom: Implementing the Common Core State Standards – English Language Arts and Literacy” Words that chill me to my bones.  If you ever want a child to tune out of their education, you ask them to practice the same skill again and again in the same way.  Not reading a lot, but reading one book over and over until it is mastered.  Doing the same math problem over and over.  We know that it is not just repetition that fosters understanding, but relevance, interest, and engagement as well.  Students stay engaged when they are faced with problems that they can successfully master or can access different ways of getting through them.  Students become successful when their curiosity is piqued.  How does repetition of the same thing pique anyone’s curiosity?

I was awful at math in gymnasium, and yet I had chosen it as my line of study.  I asked my teacher for help again and again, and over and over she showed me the same way to do the same problem, failing to understand that us being stuck in this track of help led us nowhere.  I needed a new approach, someone else to explain it to me and so do our students; if a book is not helping them, then we must search for something else.  If the approach that I take to explain something is not helpful then another way must be found.  

Now I now some people will say that repetition is how we learn anything, and yes, thoughtful repetition does help us learn.  Repetition in the type of problem we encounter, but not the actual problem itself.  So forcing a child to read the same text whether it is accesible to them or not hoping that they will catch up to their peers is ludicrous to begin with and then having them re-read it over and over in the hopes that it will all of a sudden click, well that is just insanity.

So when we now all rush to implement the common core, will we be the ones telling our students to just do it again and again and again?  Or will we be the ones that find a way to work with the standards, ensuring that our students’ curiosity for learning is protected?  And has anyone stopped to ask the students how they want to learn?  Or do their opinions not matter?

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