Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Students and learning...

In all of my many hats I've worn professionally through the years, I taught science for 9 years. Syllabi. Tests. Homework. Special assignments. Labs. Progress reports and report cards. The whole ball of wax. The idea was to make students want to learn, and there was no getting around their putting effort into the process.

And so I clinch my teeth and seethe a guttural grrrr when I see emails like the following come across the weather inboxes of the stations I've worked for over two decades (note: this is my version to give you the gist of my jungle-like emanations):

"Dear Meteorologist,
My son has a project due in two days and needs to know what a meteorologist does. Please send me any information you can, preferably today. Thank you."

...and another type...

"Hi. My daughter has to turn in her April weather notebook and she needs the highs and lows for the following dates: April 3, 4, 17, 21, and 29. Also say if it rained or not. Thanks."

Oh, there are other variations on those themes. Of the many schooling situations I have difficulty swallowing is a parent who steps in to do the work their child should have done. Accountability goes out the window. Owning responsibility and going through the intentions of the whole learning process vaporizes. I simply run across too many parents who do the work for their kids and try to make homework easier for them, justifying it with excuses.

It's critical youth understand what it is to shoulder responsibility. It's also critical that they be allowed to fall and scrape their nose, to actually fail at something if it's a consequence of their laziness and poor planning, or even just a bad day.

If your child needs to know what a weatherman does, have the child write the email. If there is data missing from a report, have the child look it up...even if you just go to a website, guide and instruct them as they themselves click on links and retrieve numbers. Spoon-feeding has negative consequences.

Too, we can be a busy lot, meteorologists, with myriad daily responsibilities. Occasionally a student will send in an email asking if we could answer some questions for them for a report they're doing. 2 or 3 are do-able, but asking 14 questions, some on the order of "discuss your opinion of global warming" is inappropriate.

As a lot we'll go the extra mile to be helpful with a smile, but on occasion I have had to speak up as a former teacher and suggest an alternative action. As the old anonymous saying goes,

"Give someone a fish and they will eat for a day. Teach someone to fish and they will eat for a lifetime."

and now, for some humorous variations on that last thought...

"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he'll be gone for the entire weekend." ~Zenna Shaffer

"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he'll sit in a boat and drink beer all day." ~anonymous

"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he'll be dead from mercury poisoning inside of three years." ~Charles Haas

"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day; give him a religion and he'll starve while he's praying for a fish." ~anonymous

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