I can hear the sighs, the groans, and the silent cuss words as the students stare blankly at the test that lies in front of them. 40 minutes in and its obvious they did not retain the information being tested. They’re racking their brains trying to remember any tidbit of the information that could possibly help them. I watch as Sally’s eyes wander over to Tommy’s test hoping to see something that will trigger something in her brain as to how to solve this. I see John staring at the clock, watching the minute hand tick. Other students begin to fidget in their seats. Then a look of panic sets in when Michael comes up to turn in his test, the others wondering how he remembered so much. What’s causing this? Why isn’t the information sticking with them? Are my teaching methods failing? Are they not paying attention? Is the classroom atmosphere to distracting? Am I a bad teacher?
I stop the blame game and I think back to my grade school days and the teachers I had. The goal at hand is to help my students succeed. The way I go about teaching impacts my students’ success rate. The way I plan and design my lessons determines how the students learn and retain information. I need excitement. I need a variety of methods. I need to ensure that the students continue to use the previous information so they continue to use it. I need to plan my lesson so my students are engaged and making connections between ideas and life. It’s my job to get them to understand and learn. They need to retain the information for more than just the test. I will succeed so they can succeed.
My lessons will change. They will no longer be the same boring, repetitive PowerPoint presentations so many teachers fall into. I will vary my lesson styles. The activities will become more engaging. I will find more hands on methods so students can learn by exploration. I will find real world connections so the information is relevant to my students. I will help them make connections so they will remember this information for more than an hour.
I do not want to teach answer getting. I do not want to teach memorization for a test. I want students to love learning and look forward to it. The more excited students get about learning, the easier remembering will be. If they are truly passionate about something, then remembering it will come easier to them. I will learn about each of my students: their hobbies, interest, and likes/dislikes. Knowing these will help me plan lessons that excite them about the lesson. My students will shout, “Yay” and “Hooray!” instead of grumbling at the idea of a new lesson.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Each lesson will be learned, but it will not go away after the test. My class will keep reviewing old skills, building new skills off of them. This information will not only be used until it is tested on, but it will be used all year. We will continue making different connections to old standards so students will remember them over a period of time instead of learning for the test.
With the use of different methods, multiple connections to the real world, and practice students will learn and remember. Remembering. That’s the most important thing. In doing these things, I will help my students’ succeed. No longer will the groans and cuss words slip from their mouths on test. My students will be prepared for whatever is presented to them.