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Journal 5

rschwartz's picture

In class last week, I shared a story from my field experience, which I’d like to spend more time examining. I work with second graders. During guided reading, the teacher worked with a small group of students, while the others read a short book and answered comprehension questions, working quietly and independently. One student—I’ll call him Mike—asked me for help. I proposed that we read the story together. Mike agreed and began reading aloud, but he had a lot of trouble with one word—a name, “Marjory.” I didn’t want to give him the answer, so I tried to help him figure out the word. In fact, most of the students had struggled with the same word. Maybe I should have told Mike that the other students also struggled to read “Marjory,” but I didn’t. Mike got frustrated and put his head on his desk. For a while, he wouldn’t answer me, and he eventually communicated that he didn’t want to read anymore.

            I mentioned the story in class, because I’ve been thinking about ways to motivate students—how could I have convinced Mike to keep reading? Looking back, I sort of assumed that Mike’s lack of motivation stemmed from his lack of interest—i.e., he didn’t care about the work or the worksheet, so he didn’t want to exert the extra effort, or he had no reason to try harder. To my eyes, the book and the worksheet looked like busywork, and I supposed that the majority of the students were bored and disinterested. Now that I’ve written about the experience, I’m not so sure. Mike asked me for help—I didn’t approach him, but he sought me out. Did he ask for help because he wasn’t interested in the worksheet and hoped that I might give him some of the answers? Did Mike just want to get the thing done as quickly and painlessly as possible? I don’t discount this as a realistic possibility. But it’s also possible that Mike asked for help simply because he was struggling; and when he put his head down, he was frustrated and upset—not disinterested. In that case, could I have motivated Mike with encouragement, with an acknowledgement that the reading was hard and he was doing really well, with a promise to help him through the material? Did Mike need a cheerleader more than he needed a disciplinarian? 


Brooke Kelly's picture


This reminds me of something that happened in my placement. The students were all supposed to be working on their persuasive essays, and were all on different stages of the process. I noticed that one boy was still working on the idea map, while many others were well on their way into beginning the writing process. The teacher I am shadowing informed the class that she would be holding one-on-one conferences with each student, and that the rest of the class was to work quietly until it was their turn. This boy attempted to ask her multiple questions, but because it was not his turn, she disregarded him. After being denied multiple times, he put his head down on his desk and proceeded to fall asleep. At that moment, it became clear to me why he was so far behind compared to the rest of the class. It seemed to me that when he got to the point in the process that he could not move forward independently, and the teacher did not have him in her schedule, he shut down. While I can admit that this is not an ideal habit, I couldn't help but feel more critical of the teacher than the student. Whether due to class size, amount of work, or any other factor, it seems to me to be concerning when a teacher is unaware of the amount that her student is struggling, and can not break from her drawn out schedule to reach out to him.