Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Yesterday I supervised an art class when the teacher was out on a field trip, and, as I watched the kids working on their drawing assignment, I admired what I saw -- and wondered why I don’t see more of it in my classes. The art students were totally focused. Heads were bending over papers, hands were clutching markers and moving them with care, and quietness was reigning. Close friends were side by side, yet few words were spoken. All I could hear was the sounds of markers sliding across papers and the occasional shifting of attentive bodies in chairs. It occurred to me, with some sense of dismay, that this kind of attentiveness doesn’t seem to happen very often in my own classes. I usually see more vacant looks than intense gazes. There seems to be more lethargy than passion, more daydreaming than concentration. I don’t mean to put myself down completely, because my students are always quiet and well-behaved, and I know there are times of curiosity and focus in my classes – but I’m afraid it happens intermittently, whereas I’ll wager it happens regularly in art class. What I saw there today was kids doing art. They weren’t listening to a teacher drone on about participles or semicolons; they were listening to their own inner voices telling them precisely how to move the markers, and they were moving the markers. They were engaged. They were absorbed in work they enjoyed, and when the period was over, many were disappointed. They had enjoyed doing art, whereas in my classes I’m afraid the students do more listening than doing. My challenge: Find more ways to let the kids do English.

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