50 Classrooms Should Be Transparent
“What would you like to do?” is something I have never heard come out of a teacher’s mouth. “What are you looking to get out of this class? What can I do in order to make you guys better writers?”. These are questions one of my professors opened class with on the first day of the new semester. I had never been asked what I wanted to do or what I wanted to learn in a class before. It felt so refreshing to have an educator take into account my personal goals, work style, and needs before they even planned the rest of the semester. This professor continues to check in on their students as a whole class and individually in order for them to know how to provide the best experience for their students. By taking my perspective into consideration throughout the semester I was able to have an extremely enjoyable experience. Their open line of communication caused me to improve in my abilities and become a better writer, which is exactly what the goal was.
Surprisingly having a considerate educator like that is a rare occurrence. Usually the first day of any class goes something like this; the professor or teacher will walk in with a 15 page syllabus mapping out everything that will be covered in the class with no wiggle room for anything less or more. Within that syllabus will be countless assignments ranging from challenging exams to useless online discussions questions. As a student I wonder why I need to memorize 10+ pieces of classical music if I plan to teach middle schools how to write argumentative essays and proper comma placement in sentences. This professor who has not taken any of their students’ educational needs, learning abilities, and student perspective. Unfortunately the professor will probably lose their students’ drive and attention within the first week or so. Of course not every educator can plan their curriculum around their students, there are certain requirements that they have to fulfill, but their students should be taken into account one way or another. In high school I would always find myself asking my teachers “Why do I need to learn this?” “ When am I going to use this in real life?” or my peers and I would express to them how self guided learning and pure memorization are not effective methods of learning. As a student I often feel unheard and not taken into account about my own education. Being told “because you are going to use this one day”, “ because I want to”, “ because you have to” by an educator completely shuts down my drive as a student and creates a barrier of trust towards them. Communication is key in any relationship, including student to teacher. In order to create a better line of communication, teachers need to be more transparent with their students which will improve trust and student retention within their classroom.
Reasoning Behind Learning
“This is going to be useful one day” is something that all students hear after complaining that material is too challenging or they are learning something the student has no interest in. A student cramming for an algebra test may not understand that the skills they are vigorously working on will be useful in the future no matter what walk of life they choose to take. The basic math skills that are taught in school slowly start to turn into real life applications like money management and paying taxes. Of course when a student is half asleep and confused in their math class they may ask “why do I need to know this?” out of boredom or frustration. It is the teachers job to show the importance of these skills by connecting it to real world applications.
Andrew Hollinger is a lecturer at the University of Texas and a former high school teacher. He writes about the phrase “You’re Going To Need This In College” which is another common saying that teachers use in order to provide reasoning for the lessons they teach. An example that he uses is citations, which is often a concept many student’s struggle with. Their frustration with this concept often leads them to say ‘“ What does it matter how or if I cite my sources a specific way? Can’t I just include the link where I found it and be done?”’. Hollinger continues to explain that in order to soothe the student’s struggles with citations the teacher should explain the importance of including proper citations and how doing them incorrectly can lead to plagiarism. If the teacher were to leave the conversation at “you’re going to need this in college” the student might not see the value in it and assume it will be explained in higher education meaning they do not need to fully understand the concept in the given moment.
Students should not be afraid to speak up and be curious about the material they are learning. When a student asks“why do I need to know this?”, it indicates to the teacher that they need to dig deeper into their lesson by explaining the real life implications of the subject matter. When students understand the importance of what they are learning they feel more inclined to pay attention and retain the information.
Communication is Key
An open line of communication is the best way to ensure that everyone has a positive experience in the classroom. Being able to effectively communicate with others is an extremely important skill that is never truly taught in school. Most kindergarteners are taught that sharing is caring but never learn the proper way to communicate that they want someone to share with them. I see this scenario a lot when I am a camp counselor over the summer, the younger campers find it easier to throw a fit instead of trying to find the words to express their feelings. By teaching and practicing proper communication skills at a young age it creates a better learning environment for the educators and students.
Asking for help is a crucial skill in life because it is one of the best ways to learn. Almost everyone struggles to ask for help, no matter their age. It is important that students feel comfortable enough to reach out to their educators and ask for help. The only way reliability can be created between a teacher and their students is through transparent communication, this means frequent check-ins and being open with changes. When I asked my 13 year old brother why his favorite teacher is his favorite he told me that the teacher is always open to helping their student no matter what they need. He explained to me how the teacher has a very loose structure to their classroom and allows for student input which creates a supportive environment. This classroom style creates a positive experience that promotes growth and student retention. It is an educator’s job to create a safe classroom where their students feel comfortable enough to communicate their successes and struggles.
With the new generation of teachers coming into the education system, they can be the change and implement better transparency into their classrooms. They can reflect on their past experiences in the classroom and think about the times have asked themselves “why do I need to know this” during a lesson that they may have found confusing or boring. These future teachers should connect the dots and incorporate the reasoning behind their lessons. It should be these new educators’s goal to create a safe classroom for their students which allows for open communication. They should work to change the stigma behind safe classroom transparency in order to create a new level of trust.