The other day a school friend and I were talking about something that happened at the end of the school year that I had meant to blog about but forgot:
Our school year always ends with an all-employee meeting, during which departing employees are honored with an adulatory spiel by their department head or supervisor. (And then we have a party, and then we're out of there!) This year one of the departing folks was a math teacher whom I liked, although his sarcasm was a little much for more sensitive students.
The math department head, who is a very good public speaker, gave a nice tribute to him ... except that my feelings would have been hurt if she'd been talking about me! The bulk of her speech was excerpts from student evaluations, all of whom (among those she selected) praised the teacher primarily for being so predictable and doing exactly the same thing every day in class. When she read the first student comment aloud, I assumed she was going to follow it up with a joke of some sort, but no; instead, she read two more such comments from students, and then went on to say that this dependability was exactly what everyone in the department loved about this teacher. One of the student comments she read went into detail about the consistent class plan this teacher had: first, go over last night's homework; then, teach a new concept; then practice it in class; then get the assignment for that night's homework.
This sounds like a fine class plan, but every day? And dependability is certainly a great character trait, but I don't think that requires a monolithic class plan. The whole speech seemed really strange to me, and I kept looking at the teacher to see if he was pleased or upset about what was being said about him, but I couldn't tell from his expression.
My friend and I then had a really interesting conversation about this speech when we were out walking the other day. I said that I thought the students and department head essentially called the teacher "boring" and that I would have been terribly upset to hear such things about my class. Indeed, I push myself to change up class plans during the week so that we're rarely doing the same kind of activity two days in a row.
My friend, on the other hand, has been feeling pretty insecure about her teaching lately. (Actually, she's been made to feel insecure by some very poor actions by her department head and the head of school, but that's another story.) She told me that she was completely absorbed during the math department head's short speech, thinking, "Ah, so that's what the school thinks good teaching is! So I guess that's what we're supposed to do!" And she said it made sense, since students want to know what to expect in a class.
I told her that I disagreed, that I didn't think this was what good teaching necessarily looked like, and that it was sometimes good for students to face something unexpected in class. And I said that I was certainly not going to emulate this do-the-same-thing-every-single-day pedagogy. I don't know what she'll wind up doing next year.
I get the point that students need continuity, but I also think that they can fall into complacency or boredom and that this is one reason that we change things up. It's like the advice to change up one's workout routine so that your body doesn't fall into complacency.
What's your approach for continuity versus change?