Any thoughts on this?
Do students have an obligation to be interested?
I don't think it is possible to have an effective classroom experience unless the teacher (professor) is interesting. That said, I'm not sure that makes it an obligation. It just makes it smart.
February 13, 2010 at 07:05 AM
Do we want our students/school communities to be interested? Of course. That said, "interesting" might not be the right word. "Engaging," I think is more to the point
Vincent Baxter |
February 13, 2010 at 07:10 AM
If you want to teach or profess but don't care if kids learn, you have no obligation to anyone or anything but yourself. You have your permission to do what you have always done and ignore the ever-changing world we live in.
If you are interested in facilitating learning, though, you will understand that the stickiness and depth of learning depend greatly on many factors, one of which is engagement. If this applies to you, you will want to read http://www.schlechtycenter.org/tools/public/sc_pdf_engagement.pdf.
Becky Fisher |
February 13, 2010 at 07:12 AM
I like engagement more than interesting, but both are on the mark. Even though it was written for businesses, I also like how Lon Safko in the Social Media Bible suggests that social media should "communicate, collaborate, educate, and entertain." Actually that is not a bad recipe for teaching!
Britt Watwood |
February 13, 2010 at 07:25 AM
If one is truly a teacher, as opposed to a pedant, or instructor, they will intuitively understand 'being interesting' - and be it
February 13, 2010 at 07:30 AM
I agree with what you are saying, but sometimes students have to be interested before they are willing to be engaged and vice versa. It goes both ways and it depends on the age you are working with.
I think if students can sense that the teacher is excited about what they are teaching, they too, will become more interested.
Sharon Wade |
February 13, 2010 at 07:43 AM
I think the better question is: Do teachers have the obligation to relevant - and to convince their students of their relevance. If what is being taught is important, interest follows. Even when the PPT has bullet points.
Doug Johnson |
February 13, 2010 at 08:20 AM
"interesting" is a vague buzzword that is difficult to measure. what interests me totally bores others.
the current buzzword at our school is "excellence". who doesn't want to be excellent? but how do you measure it? can I lose my job if I'm boring or just not good enough?
February 13, 2010 at 08:27 AM
Teachers should be interesting and engaging. Students have to be interested and willing to be engaged. It takes both.
Edward Bujak |
February 13, 2010 at 08:37 AM
Interesting no, but engaging yes!
February 13, 2010 at 08:42 AM
Sometimes relevancy is tough, kids don't always see the relevance of learning the basics before they get into the more interesting or "fun" stuff.
February 13, 2010 at 08:44 AM
Do teachers (and professors) have an obligation to be interesting?
No...they have an obligation to allow their kids to do interesting things.
Paul Bogush |
February 13, 2010 at 08:51 AM
Interesting? No. Teachers have an obligation to ensure students are learning at levels that enable them to meet the demands of our communities, workforce, and democracy. Moreover, we have an obligation to respond and provide additional supports to meet the above goal.
Note: Being interesting is not an obligation....it would just help the cause.
February 13, 2010 at 08:58 AM
But isn't the problem with learning basics that kids don't see the relevance. We've always misunderstood the sequence of basics & "interesting stuff." Going to the interesting stuff IS how you get kids to learn the basics. And if kids don't see the relevance of something, isn't that a problem with the teaching, not with the learner?
Kids are not in school by choice. They are in school by law. That shifts the onus of responsibility (or maybe it is just because they are the kids and we are the adults).
Mike Muir |
February 13, 2010 at 10:03 AM
I think many of these comments are on the mark. I see the root issue of this question to be, "What business are schools (universities) in, teaching or learning?" If schools are in the teaching business then the focus is on how well teachers teach and any learning that occurs is merely a by-product. Being interesting or engaging is not important unless included in the criteria of good teaching (I doubt it makes the top 10 for many people). If a school is in the learning business the focus is on how students grow - intellectually, socially, emotionally. Teaching is not the product of the school it is a part of the creation of the schools product. If being interesting/engaging produces better learning then these school demand it because that is the focus.
Chris Willis |
February 13, 2010 at 10:24 AM
I love semantic arguments.
If the teacher/professor wants to maintain an income in the near future they will have to be:
*engaging (still abhor that word for education)
So if the teacher/professor has an obligation, it will be to family and/or creditors.
Liking Jennifer's paradigm shift of role of the student in learning. We have lost that part of the equation since the UBD push.
It's time to help the public realize that learning is the responsibility of the learner. Learning environments (classroom, online, phone, book, colleagues, etc.) must be respected for what they are, with the realization that not all learning will take place in any ONE of them. It is the combination that provides a life of learning.
Ric Murry |
February 13, 2010 at 10:44 AM
Justin B. |
February 13, 2010 at 12:43 PM
I agree. Define interesting ever how you want but teachers MUST be engaging.
February 13, 2010 at 12:47 PM
I think that this whole thread is missing the most important of the three Rs. Relationship - until students understand what you are trying to accomplish, whether it is basics or engaging, interesting projects, they won't care.
Once you've created a relationship with them, then they will understand the relevance as they now have a trust level with you. Only then can you introduce rigor and real learning.
February 13, 2010 at 02:07 PM
This has been a great comment thread. Thank you, everyone!
Some of you see a difference between 'interesting' and engaging.' How do you see these as being different from each other?
@Paul Bogush: I LOVE your comment (#12). As Ben notes (comment #8), does that mean that we should discipline teachers (or professors) that don't do this ('cause there are a LOT of 'em!)? If not, how else do we ultimately ensure that what you advocate occurs?
@Ric Murry: Does Understanding by Design / backward design (or whatever we want to call it) really get in the way of being interesting? You also say that 'learning is the responsibility of the learner.' Haven't others often used that concept to remove the blame from instructors and put the onus of responsibility on students to quietly accept whatever crappy learning environments we create for them?
@Mike Muir: Given a true choice, I wonder how many students ultimately would choose to subject themselves to the elementary, secondary, or postsecondary environments we create for them...
Scott McLeod |
February 13, 2010 at 02:34 PM
It's not what we teach that matters, rather it is what they learn. If they are not interested, they are likely to learn far less.
You want schoolto be accountable, make student interest and attitude towards learning count for something.
February 13, 2010 at 02:59 PM
I'll say no, but only because I don't want "interesting" to be one more subjective term that gets assessed quantitatively.
Russ Goerend |
February 13, 2010 at 03:03 PM
interesting and relevant question- in talking recently with a student who just very succesfully completed Army basic training and who struggled quite a bit in school, I asked him why the performance difference? He said, "because in the military your life depends upon your learning. The instructors pretty much refuse to let you fail. I heard one tell another soldier that if he failed, then the DI failed,too."
I wonder how we would teach differently if we conceptualized that our students' lives depended upon us to ensure that they learn. How would that change the way we approach making learning relevant, engaging,interesting,results-based? How would we see our role as teachers differently? Would failure be an easy option? how would we see responsibility for/of of learners and learning?
I'm not advocating that we educators become drill instructors but the drill instructors' handbook is fascinating. http://www.jackson.army.mil/units/drill/index.html
February 13, 2010 at 03:19 PM
Interesting, no. Interested, absolutely.
Greg Thompson (@akamrt) |
February 13, 2010 at 03:46 PM
An obligation yes, but reality is different.
The same could be asked of teachers instead of lecturers too. Our students learn best when they are engaged. When students are not engaged, learning is left to chance - the chance that they are motivated to learn.
To be engaging you must make what you are communicating interesting.
See you in Mumbai
Andrew Churches |
February 13, 2010 at 05:15 PM
IMHO You have an obligation to be whatever your students need to prepare them to do their absolute best in whatever you are preparing them in.
So you have an obligation to be:
interesting, boring, fun excited, engaging, direct, etc. But if you have only ever been one of these nouns (specifically boring) for the last few years, some reflection is required.
February 13, 2010 at 05:18 PM
We've all likely spent time in classrooms with uninteresting teachers. It's painful to experience. I vote "yes" - teachers have an obligation to be interesting.
John Ranta |
February 13, 2010 at 05:21 PM
It is awefully haughty of me to think that I am personally capable of being more interesting than the centuries of my content. I can however try to share my enthusiasm about my content with my students.
In response to a previous comment: I wish that like the army private, something in our student's lives depended on them learning. I eagerly await a time when students see value in learning. Not value because I'm interesting or entertaining, but because life rewards the learner and gives equal consequence to the apathetic.
February 13, 2010 at 05:52 PM
Hell yes! The most interesting people make the best teachers. Good teachers share much of themselves in the classroom. Open, honest, genuine engagement with kids at the interpersonal level and not simply with the content is crucial.
One of the questions we ask in interviews (after giving this sort of context) is "what makes you interesting to children?" OFTEN this sorts out the good people from the technicians or wafflers.
Greg Carroll |
February 13, 2010 at 08:30 PM
I'm with those whose comments took the focus off the teacher and put it on the learning and learning environment. The students must attend in order to learn, but the source of that attention can come from all sorts of places. Teacher interest may or may not be a key attribute of a given learning experience. It depends upon what the learner brings to the table and the nature of the learning experience. I tend to see the teacher/professor as responsible for monitoring the learning environment, checking on student learning, ensuring that learners receive quick/meaningful feedback, and making adjustments that will help improve individual and collective student learning.
February 14, 2010 at 09:18 AM
"Haven't others often used that concept to remove the blame from instructors and put the onus of responsibility on students to quietly accept whatever crappy learning environments we create for them?"
Yes! Students, especially in the elementary and middle school levels, have no choice in what they learn, when they learn it or how they learn it. If they don't measure up and prove they've "learned" whatever we have presented, we judge students, grade them harshly and label them as unmotivated and unsuccessful.
As adults, we would never tolerate and meekly accept, let alone show eager interest in, the crappy learning environments many students find themselves in every day. Children, who have no voice, no power, and no authority to change or improve their learning environments are then blamed for not "taking responsibility for their own learning."
February 14, 2010 at 01:09 PM
Things are interesting that touch our interests. Some students are not in the least interested in things that schools need to teach. Catering to student interest is a quick way to corruption.
Nobody becomes powerfully educated without paying attention to and mastering some things in which he or she is not particularly interested.
Having said, teachers have a responsibility to try to be engaging and to try to show where the interest in a topic might lie.
Michael Umphrey |
February 14, 2010 at 02:18 PM
Engaging, YES! However, for some students that is more difficult than others. Some students have a broad foundation of knowledge about the world around them and of people and processes. They come to class wired to be interested. Others know very little and this really makes it difficult to interest them and to get them involved. Their scope of interests is extremely narrow. They seem to have many wires that were never attached.
No teacher, engages all students all the time no matter who the students are. Our goal is to engage as many as we can consistently.
Lynn Merrell |
February 14, 2010 at 02:23 PM
Why wouldn't you want to be interesting? Teaching is hard enough; why make it harder by being "boring"? Video taping lessons, letting other teachers observe and provide honest and candid feedback, being reflective, getting feedback from students,etc. would go a long way toward making your teaching more interesting... how many teachers do those things?
February 14, 2010 at 03:12 PM
Interesting: Teachers who are interesting do not have to be interested in teaching. Question? How many really fun and interesting teacher or professor have you had that did not teach the basics but everyone wanted to be in their class. (My answer would be yes)
Engaging: Teachers who are engaging are into the subject matter and into the students. Question? Have you ever had a teacher or professor who was truly engaged not teach the basic curriculum? (My answer would be no)
February 14, 2010 at 04:09 PM
Willingham says good teachers are good story tellers. Good stories are most generally interesting. I think I have had teachers who were not very interesting as individuals, but were good story tellers and had most interesting stories. They saw and could project the interesting elements in the subject matter they taught.
Gene McCracken |
February 14, 2010 at 09:49 PM
Short answer: yes!
New York answer: What, you would want to be boring?
Longer answer: "Interesting" (or "engaging" or "relevant") is an attribute of the person watching/listening/learning. There is no interest without an audience, no relevance without context. "Being interesting" is a bit of a zen paradox, the sound of one hand clapping or a tree falling in the forest.
I think this question is a bit of a red herring. Asking this in and of itself doesn't really shed any light on the nature of teaching or the obligations of teachers. It only makes sense when you include the audience in the answer (as many commenters did.)
sylvia martinez |
February 15, 2010 at 02:56 PM
Given a true choice I opted out of the environments of traditional institutions. Currently, I am completing my master's in education through Goddard College. I have designed my entire program, chosen every book that I read, and had one of the most rigorous learning experiences of my life. In addition to completing my master's I will have satisfied the competencies for a Vermont State Teacher's License. Not bad for not having anyone tell me what to do!
I have coined the phrase that Goddard has been the most supportive yet least restrictive educational institution I have been a part of. Now my task is to recreate such an environment for any student at any level.
February 16, 2010 at 07:51 PM
Good god, yes. The only reason they can get away with being BORING is when their students are held captive, forced to be there without any CHOICE. As options for learning emerge, irrelevance will = obsolete.
Kimberly Moritz |
February 17, 2010 at 08:14 AM
An old curse, 'May you live in interesting times.'
If you don't have some belief in, and passion for, the subject you are teaching, why are you doing it?
I didn't begin a career in education nor did I seek it; I was ASKED to teach and consider it an honor, an obligation, and a lot of fun!
Don R. James |
February 21, 2010 at 12:45 PM
As Maxine Greene might say, "Release the Imagination"...
Murray Gafkjen |
February 21, 2010 at 12:47 PM
The word "interesting" is relative in itself because it requires the act of the observer's participation and their particular value of a specific subject. But one must understand that language is also relative, so in order for an audience to be "interested" in the speaker the speaker must speak the language of his or her audience. I personally feel that some teachers fail to do this on so many levels. We assume and take for granted that our students understand the language that we use on an everyday basis and are able to translate our analogies into tangible things. The fact that Tiger Woods is sleeping around is considered "interesting" to the American public, yet if the breaking news story was a new scientific theory that had been uncovered or a mathematical find of multiple dimensions, how many people would find that very interesting. Our culture needs to reevaluate our model for education and for society in general!
February 22, 2010 at 03:32 PM
I can't be interesting to everybody all the time. I can be interesting to my moms group. We all talk about our kids. I can be interesting to my family. We share a common background. I can be interesting to the people at my church. We share the same faith. Whenever a conversation lags with these groups, I can always move to a place of commonality.
My class comes from many different background and arrive with different needs. What may be interesting to one, might be boring to another. What makes one laugh, might make another roll his or her eyes. I am not there to be interesting.
However, I am there to teach (and sometimes what I have to teach doesn't even interest me). I have to make what I do meaningful to them. I have to show why we must learn what we learn; what makes it important. I have to get to know my students as individuals so that I can mold the class to suit the needs of the curriculum but adapt it to meet the needs of the individual students. Making meaning is interesting...not me.
Heather Mason |
March 10, 2010 at 10:29 PM
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Associate Professor & Director, CASTLE, Iowa State University.