“Congratulations,” I told my freshmen on Wednesday, “you’ve made it through 1/16th of your high school career.”

It’s awfully nice to finally have a fall break.  Between moving into a new facility, building a new curriculum, and everything else that goes with working in a high school, the teachers probably worked harder than a lot of the students did over the last nine weeks.  So we earned this four-day weekend.

It was also nice to see that some of that work paid off.  Grades aren’t the sole measure of student achievement, of course, but they’re definitely a starting point.  For our inaugural grading period, a plurality of my students got an ‘A’, and over half of the students got an ‘A’ or ‘B’.  Only about ten percent failed the first quarter, but even among those students, many of them made tremendous strides between Day 1 and Day 45, so I’m optimistic that they’ll continue to make progress and be successful.

And yet, despite all this anecdotal success, I’m apparently not teaching anything.

What I looked like when asked by a student if I was going to teach them anything.

This was brought to my attention during my 4th period class this past Tuesday.  While going over what we’d be doing throughout the rest of our unit on Rome, one of my students – who is also the president of our fledgling student government – raised her hand and asked, with an utterly serious tone and facial expression, “Mr. Drake, are you ever going to actually teach us anything?”

At first I didn’t know how to react.  If she was serious, it’s a slappable offense.  If she’s joking, I’m still not sure how to take it.  And her classmates’ reactions betrayed their horror at what she had just said.

She immediately walked it back.  “THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT! THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT!!!!” she screamed.  “What I meant was, are you ever going to stand in front of the class and lecture us, instead of just teaching us through your highly entertaining, informative videos that I treasure and give my highest priority?”

Strong recovery.

We had a long laugh about her foot-in-mouth moment and we went on about our day.  But later, I started thinking about what she had said, and what it reveals about students’ thoughts on education.  They have been conditioned throughout their school-going lives that “teaching” is standing in front of a classroom and giving notes while the students dutifully listen.  And with a few exceptions, that’s not what we do at RTHS.  We want the kids to learn by doing, by using technology, by questioning things – not  by being told information.  Now, sometimes lecturing has its place – as my AP U.S. History students from Robinson would attest, I can get real wordy in that class – but it’s certainly not the only effective teaching tool that can be utilized.  I guess one of our goals as the year goes on is to continue to show the students that there are multiple pathways to knowledge and learning, and a lot of them aren’t teacher-centered.

But before I start on that quest, I’m going to enjoy the rest of my fall break.

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