Home › Forums › Why Don’t Students Like School? By Daniel T. Willingham › Chapter 1 › Reflecting
Reflect on a challenging learning experience you’ve encountered as a learner. Did you give up or push on to succeed? What influenced that decision for you? What resources did you access or what prompted your decision either way? In looking back on it, what could you have or do you wish you had done differently?
My first year of school here at SLU i was enrolled in organic chemistry. Up until that class, i had done very well in my science classes throughout my life regardless of level of difficulty. I went into the first exam knowing that i didn’t have an excellent grasp on the material, but expecting that i would manage to scrape by in some magical way. I was very wrong, and resultantly got a very bad grade. This experience forced me to change the way i was approaching and learning the subject. I got my act together after the first exam by seeking assistance from a tutor, and actually attending the available extra instruction sessions. I also started to look at the material in a different way than i had been. For me, getting a bad grade in the class wasn’t an option for intrinsic and extrinsic reasons so i was able to recognize that things needed to be changed. Looking back, i wish i had realized that i needed help with the challenging course prior to doing poorly on the first exam. Swallowing my pride and accepting that i needed help would have allowed me to achieve a better grade in the class than i got, and would have saved me the breakdown that ensued upon receiving our first grade. This challenging learning experience was important for me in that it changed the way i approached learning as a whole. It also made me think about those people who throughout their education consistently felt the way i felt after that exam. The defeat and frustration i felt are emotions that some students are very familiar with, but shouldn’t have to be. Learning, particularly for young students, should be an empowering experience that inspires curiosity and growth, rather than frustration.
This is a powerful reflection. I particularly appreciate how you reflected on how it must feel to have those learning experiences regularly while acknowledging it is rare for you. We must always be mindful of the experiences our LEARNERS are having!!
I wanted to take this question a different direction and talk about my difficulty in a teaching situation that I noticed with a student of mine through one of my lessons. I often notice that children are excited to get into learning in small groups with students from SLU. In one of my first experiences in teaching lessons each week in a classroom, I noticed one of my students always wanted to leave and go to the bathroom or get a drink of water or anything to get away from learning in this small group. After a couple of times working with this child, I decided that I needed to change what I was doing that made him feel the way that he did. At this time, I was teaching reading and writing in small groups. I noticed that when we worked on reading he was more inclined to try to leave the room. After reflecting on what we were working on and how we were working on it, I noticed that when he had to answer reading questions in front of the entire group he looked uncomfortable. I was continuously asking the children to share aloud. The next week, I asked the children to write their responses rather than share aloud. This student seemed to have a shift in his behavior and mood when I used this method rather than sharing aloud. I chose to tell this story because I think that it took a lot of reflecting to realize that this child was not reacting the way that I expected because I was not using a method that worked for him. I had to step back and change my lesson to accommodate his learning and what best suited him. I think it was difficult for me to realize that my way is not the best way for everyone. I have definitely learned from this lesson and I always give my students choices with their way of expressing their thoughts and ideas.
This is really important! And it’s a place where data plays a critical role. If you make notes of your learners’ engagement, the antecedents to the escape behavior, etc, you can draw a line to the function. You did this well and responded meaningfully so he could better engage in learning.
The first time I was really challenged in a class was physics back in high school. Up until that point most subjects came pretty easy to me, and the ones that were more difficult did not take much to figure it out with a little extra effort. This particular physics class had very hard material, on top of a teacher that was way over booked with her other AP classes. She even left the class halfway through the course because she felt that she did not have enough time to help our class. Having the new teacher was slightly better, but it was hard to adjust to a new teaching style mid way through a course. Some of the steps I took to progress through this class was going to review sessions and asking the teacher for help. This was influenced by my drive to succeed in classes. I did eventually pass the class with a B (my first B), but I really could have done better. Having a teacher drop my class really took away a lot of motivation I had to do work for this class. I was very caught up with the teachers mistakes that I did not hold my self accountable for some other issues I was having with the material. I really should have sought out a tutor.
Do you feel that experience influenced your approach to difficult learning experiences you may have had since? With either instructor or content, do you feel you’ve been more driven to take your learning into your own hands as a result?
When I was a sophomore in high school I had the opportunity to go on exchange to a school in Scotland that was in the same network of schools that my school was in. I went to boarding school for 3 weeks and it was such an amazing experience for me to learn about myself and the world. Most of my teachers were super supportive and helped me create a plan for how to keep up with my work while I was there and for catching up when I got home. My French teacher on the other hand was slightly bitter that I wasn’t going to France and that I would be missing 3 weeks of class. I tried so hard to catch up when I returned, but I feel like my success was hindered by her lack of wanting to help me succeed. When it came time for parent teacher conferences, my mom said it was the most awkward conference she ever attended.
I wasn’t used to struggling this much in school and had always had good relationships with my teachers so this experience definitely threw me off. I went to the French tutor that my teacher suggested I see. It felt like whatever I tried, I couldn’t please my teacher.
If I could go back in time, I think would have worked on more of my French homework while I was in Scotland. The experiences that I had while abroad were definitely worth the struggles that I faced when I came home.
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