Yesterday I was in Michigan, surrounded by passionate educators, trying to make a change in the way they teach. I was lucky enough to give the keynote at Googlefest and after I was done speaking, my job was to listen. And so I did. With every inch of me I listened to their stories, tried to answer their questions, and soak in the knowledge that I was being given. What a gift it was.
It was exhausting.
By the time I reached the airport, my brain called out for sleep and food. No more computers. No more work. By the time I sat down, I couldn’t fathom doing anything productive although my to-do list screamed out for attention. My brain was full. My brain was so tired. And there was nothing I could do to trick it into thinking anything smart or productive. Thank goodness I did not have a looming deadline. So that’s when it struck me…
This is what happens to our students every single day.
We ask them to give us their full attention. For them to be on high alert all day as they learn. Ask any student and they will tell you they mostly listen throughout the day, interjecting knowledge throughout, yet their brain is constantly processing. Constantly working to make sure they are fulfilling what we demand students do: pay attention, be ready, learn. And be ready to prove it to us, no slacking allowed, whenever we feel like calling on them.
As adults we forget how tiring that must be. How not only are they asked to pay attention, but they are also asked to sit still, take notes, and be ready to answer any question we throw their way. We expect them to care about what we are doing and give us their very best, every minute, every day.
So today as I plan for the learning to come, I cannot help but think of how I need to make sure my students are moving. How I need to make sure they are talking and discussing. How I need to make sure we are doing something with the knowledge that we are working with, so they are not just paying attention, not just getting more information. And how I also need to be more understanding when they tell me they are tired.
We ask so much of our students because so much was asked of us when we went to school, yet we forget how hard it can be to live up to our standards. Do you have room for students brains to take a break? Do you plan for engagement and not just listening? Do you ask the students what they need so they are not exhausted by the end of the day? No wonder, students ask us to rethink homework, when all their brain is asking for is to take a break. I hope this is a lesson I don’t forget.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) just came out!