How to teach students to struggle and fail — productively

This is the fifth in a series of essays I am publishing that emanate from a project in which more than 20 biology teachers around the country wrote around the prompt: “What is the value of letting students struggle in class?”  The effort was an attempt to give teachers an avenue to discuss teaching and how they deal with the struggles of their students. You can read about the project here; the first post, here, about how much struggle is too much; the second post, here, about the nature of struggle; and the third post, here, about conversations about failure and success that teachers are scared to have. In the fourth post, a teacher explains why failure is not an option in her classroom, but, rather, it is a requirement.

my friend said something that i totally agree with. she said that awards, that were given out to students, were for students with the highest averages in the class and only for that. altho she is the second of our class, and got plenty of awards, she was upset with how students who work their asses off all year, go to extra help all the time, and still get bad or average grades, dont get awards. they should get awards for hard working students who put their time and effort in school not just because a student has high grades in that class must mean tht this student is hardworking. yea my friend works, but she even said tht she never goes after school and she said she studies but at a minimum. so many other students stay up late at night studying for a test and still gets a 70 on it. just for the whole faculity and school system, like what my friend said, give the awards for students who actually work hard in school or at least give them recognition. personally, i work very hard but i rlly dont care about awards, but some people rllly do. i just thought it was an unfair thing to do.

anonymous asked:

I see you talk too much about your study group! And I've read you dont manage your own stress too well but this is about how great your friends for studying sound! Like how do you gather a group that actually works? Usually my friends end up making me more anxious and frustrated instead of helping me! Any good advice?

This goes beyond friendship (but also friendship is gonna be important) 

  • Number is important: for now we are only 3 (and I recommend never going with something bigger than 5 people). We have more friends, we get more invitations to study with other friends, but we usually just gather together us 3. A lot of people can be a distraction or not work together so well. 
  • Friendship is important but having all your friends is not: As I said, we have other friends, but we know how they study and we know what we don’t like or we can’t work with other friends, it’s not being selective, it’s more of a “even if we are friends we don’t work good together”. But also that your study group is conformed with friends is something I found important because among with late night starbucks and “fuck it I’m gonna be a stripper” you are gonna need someone to hug you and make you feel happy, not so close friends or “strangers” might as well be good with revision and might be intelligent, but you are gonna need to feel comfortable. 
  • This people are your new family for as long as exams last: so might as well get to understand each other, I know at what point my friend are getting annoyed or stuck, they know when I’m just moody. We know that if one takes a nap is okay, and the one taking the nap is totally comfortable with sleeping while the others chat around. We have seen each others on our ugliest phases, physically and emotionally, we know what cheers us up. I’m so used to be impregnated with the cigar smell because I understand the others like to smoke, they are so used to see me in my pjs because they understand I hate jeans. 
  • Coffee is gonna be important. 
  • You have to change the working place: Go to ones house (or dorm? I don’t know how college in other countries work) go to a different coffee spot, found a comfy couch. 

Overall study groups are what will make me go through my first year of college, as I said we are only 3 but this girls are honestly so important for me right now. And having a study group (or the same people on a study group) might not work for everyone, the point of study groups is to gather with people you know will help you improve as much ad you can help them improve. And as any other human relationship that lasts long (seriously I see M and P at least 40 hours a week if not more!) you have to put an effort on making it work, you are gonna have a good time if you gather with 10 of your favorite friends but you might as well not learn that much! See who you can work with, what works for you an them, stick to that, and get used to the idea of this people watching you sleep deprived, with a messy bun and bortherliniing a crisis. 

So little story kids, back in the olden days when I was in high school I signed up for a class called Theatre Arts and met Ben Hodge. Through his acting program and honestly just his personal approach to teaching, I mae it through high school mostly intact, at the very least alive, and with a stronger foundation in improv and character work than most actors lacking college level or professional courses in those areas. Despite swearing up and down to never do a single thing I did, my brother followed into those classes and developed an even closer bond to Hodge and became more deeply entrenched in the amazing programs and opportunities he finds for his students. One of them is this Improv Marathon, which my brother made the team for! I’ve seen one of my brother’s shows (Sadly, his most recent one fell on the same night as my own show) and the team they’ve got going is pretty amazing, especially for teenagers. And I mean I’m obviously biased but my sweet precious brother is too good for this world. I don’t know if anyone has the means or the inclination and I know Hodge has a little thing about $30 payin for a ticket but honestly this is such a small scale thing that even $5 would help push it toward gettign funded, whatever money isnt raised will likely have to come out of the kids pockets which means some of them (Almost certainly my brother) will not be able to go. I know there’s not a huge amount of you and that’s ok but if y’all could at least pass this along, help support one of the few thriving theater programs left in my area.

Students, as a result, often get the message from very early on in their education that if they do not immediately grasp how to solve a problem or get the right answer, they must not be very smart or good at that particular subject. With years of training in this way of thinking, it comes as no surprise that students often respond to challenging work by either immediately asking the teacher for help or by giving up.

My main concern with this approach to teaching and learning is that it simply is not authentic to either the practice of science or just about anything else in life. Most real-world problems are complex and do not come with clear steps to follow to reach a solution. If we are not equipping students with the skills to tackle such problems by supporting them in struggling with challenging work in our classrooms now, then we are simply pushing the issue farther down the road when students will come up against bigger challenges in future classes, in college, or in their careers.