I hate it when teachers call their students lazy. Or when they refer to having the class from “Hell”. When teachers say that do they really know what they’re saying? I’m offended when I hear that. I think a student’s parents would be offended to hear it. What about the students themselves? If a teacher thinks that poorly of their student or class, do we think that can be easily hidden?
I’ve actually never met a lazy student. Bored? Yep. Disengaged? Yep. Unmotivated by irrelevant academic hoops? Yep. But lazy? No.
The truth is I was one of those kids. Most of my marks throughout elementary & high school were pretty dismal. Usually it was because I was bored. Worksheet after worksheet. I skipped most of high school. I even skipped most of University. One can only handle so many lectures. It wasn’t until Grad school that I began to flourish in academics. Most places, things haven’t changed a lot, so let’s not blame our students.
Yesterday, I FaceTimed with my 10 year-old. School had been boring, except for Gym. Yet, the one thing she talked animatedly about was her upcoming school science fair project. She loves the project fair. Why? Because she can study things she cares about. For as long as I can remember, she has wanted to be a marine biologist. Poor girl. We live in a land locked province. Two years ago her project was on dolphins. Last year, sharks. This year the coral reef. She’s excited about designing one. Bored? Yes. Lazy? No. She reads voraciously. She’s read the Harry Potter series. The Hunger Games. And is just finishing the last Percy Jackson book. She just turned 10. But she never talks about what she reads in school. Is she lazy? No. Bored? Yes. This is the same girl who figure skates 4 times a week; twice a week this requires her to get up at 6:30 in the morning. She has a variety of interests, but school rarely touches on them.
That’s not to say as a teacher I haven’t had kids with challenging behaviours. My students learned very quickly that I wouldn’t tolerate being disrespected, but I cared about who they were and what they need. At the same time, I use to rant about kids who wouldn’t do what I wanted them to do. And that’s really the key. It’s what I wanted them to do. For a long time I didn’t take into consideration the voices of my students. However, once I started to, the whole dynamic in my classroom changed.
Too often teachers are the ones who value academics that don’t really matter. I’ve been giving this a great deal of thought lately. Is it crucial to anyone’s life that they know what a synecdoche is? How many of you reading this need to Google it to know what it is? Yet, your life has probably gone on quite fine, maybe even better, without knowing what it is. No. I’m not going to tell you. I’ll make you do the work.
How often do we major on the minors? I’ve never taken calculus. I don’t understand it. I don’t want to. Does that make me lazy? Unmotivated, sure. But, lazy? Most people who know me would not choose that as an adjective to describe me.
Let’s think really carefully before we label kids lazy and classes from Hell. Yesterday I tweeted out how much I hate when teachers call students lazy. Another educator responded:
A teacher at my gym bragged about posting article showing area test scores to remind his class about “how lazy they are.” WTH?
In turn, I responded:
Wow. If area test scores were posted to show how lazy teachers are, there would be outrage. At the very least.
And I know that happens too.
I think what teachers mean when they talk like this is kids who aren’t compliant. Who won’t jump the hoops or play the right game. And yet, often as adults, these are the innovators who are lauded for their ability to go against the crowd, think differently, and not be dissuaded by public opinion. Sometimes these are our heroes.
School should be a place where kids can discover what they love. They should be able to ask the questions that matter to them and pursue the answers. They should discover what they are passionate about, what truly sets their hearts and souls on fire. They should discover they can make a difference now. Above all, they should leave school knowing what they are good at. I fear too many are judged by if they’ll do what we “want”. And if they don’t, they’re lazy or they’re labelled as the class from Hell.
Our school system doesn’t need to create kids who are good at school. Instead, we need to create an environment that engages learners, fosters creativity, and puts responsibility for learning where it belongs – with our students.
Instead of rote learning, teachers need to use content to teach skills. We need to build environments that allow our students to get messy and build things. Places where students learn how to learn, and know how they learn best. Where students engage in significant research, and learn how to identify credible resources amidst a plethora of information that, at times, may seem overwhelming.
And if we don’t do that. We can’t blame our students for not engaging. So please, stop calling students lazy.