I watched from the back of the room as the students began to disengage from their teacher. Several of them pushed their chairs back in frustration. They were lost. It didn’t take long before they completely gave up on the lesson. They couldn’t keep up. The teacher was moving pretty fast. I could almost hear them say, “What’s the use!” A few short moments later they were doing other things at their desks.
I continued observing the class and noticed a number of individuals who were confused but hadn’t given up. They were turning to the students next to them for help. At first it was just, “What did she say? I missed it?” But the teacher was moving very quickly and soon they were working with their neighbors as if the teacher wasn’t even in the room. They would figure this out together.
Many in the class didn’t feel comfortable with asking those around them for help. They tried to figure things out by themselves. Most of them became hopelessly lost. Some raised their hands and asked for help. This slowed the teacher down. She had to stand near them and figure out what they had done to get so lost before she could bring them back to where they were supposed to be.
All the time the teacher was working with the lost “independents”, there was a group of “high-end” learners who put their heads down on their desks in frustration. For them the lesson was painstakingly slow. They were totally bored and getting angrier by the minute.
And finally, there was a group who hated being confused, and was very angry with the class. Whenever they got lost they would make a comment about the teacher. “She was moving too fast. She should have been clearer, made the lesson simpler, provided more support materials.” They were so angry they spoke out loud while others were asking questions or while the teacher was talking.
All in all, the classroom was a mess. The teacher was knowledgeable and well intentioned; and yet the students were all over the place. It was not a pleasant scene. The catch is that these were all school Principals learning how to use new laptops they had been issued a few days earlier. These were the school leaders who would be transforming education, or not.
It was obvious that they had completely forgotten what it was to be a learner; yet they were in charge of the learning of others. They didn’t like the feeling of being “lost at sea” that sometimes comes with learning new things. Most of them would claim support for lifelong learning for their students; but it didn’t seem like a real commitment as I watched them act out their frustrations in ways that were eerily reminiscent of the students in their classrooms. I think they would be embarrassed if they saw themselves on tape.
How different our classrooms would be if administrators and teachers remembered what it was to be a student…sometimes “lost at sea”.