Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Easy

Slice of Life Challenge
Please join the challenge over at Two Writing Teachers!

What does easy mean to you?
I hear that word thrown around like an insult...
I hear your class is so easy...

I asked my students to reflect about my class 
and they do use that word...a lot. 
I started feeling bad and wondering things like, 

Am I challenging them? 
Is it true? 
Are they learning what they need to learn?
Could they be learning more?
Should I be doing more?



It doesn't make any sense! My students work hard every single day. They read everyday. They write everyday. I see immense improvement in them as readers and writers. Most of them identify themselves as readers and writers when sixth grade is done. My students regularly reflect on themselves as learners and on their learning.


So, why do they say my class is easy?!?! 

Let's address the first part of that question. 
Easy. 
What does that word mean? 
From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
So far, nothing objectionable to me...I'm pleased that my class is "free from pain, trouble, or worry" and is "not hurried". 
I'd agree with that. 
Of course, I do want my students to reflect, 
put thought and effort into their studies...
and I argue that they do. 
I even like some discomfort, because I believe 
that's where learning takes place. 
The definition continues...

This is more my definition...
"free from pain, annoyance, or anxiety" 
"fitting comfortably"
"relaxation"


When a student is asked about school, they often answer using one or two words. Easy. Hard. Like it. Don't like it. Cool. Boring. If we don't follow up these one word answers with more questions, I don't believe we really know what the students mean. 

I spoke with my students and here's an excerpt from one conversation:

"Ms. Haseltine, your class is so easy!"
I asked, "What does that mean?" The word easy was repeated. When I explored more, "You told me you have read more this year than you ever read before! And you wrote more..." 
I get interrupted with an exasperated, "But, reading's easy this year." 
"Why?"
"Because we can pick books we want and you help us find books." 
"What about writing?" 
"I am better at writing."
"Why?"
"I don't know."
"Why?"
"I guess because we write all the time and it's not as hard for me. The more we do it, it gets easier. See, Ms. Haseltine...it's EASY!"

Yes, I agree...my class is easy. 

9 comments:

  1. Michelle, What's wrong with creating a classroom environment that is stress free and conducive to learning? Sounds as if the kids are making progress despite themselves! Your class sounds like a delight.

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  2. I love, love, love it!
    Your students are so blessed!

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  3. This is great reflection! So many times we get stuck with those one word answers without digging deeper! Little research, and we can have answers that we can live with much easier! P.S, I live in MI!

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  4. Here is where the pressure of teaching comes to play, and maybe (as you explore here) the nuances of the words that we use. I suspect that your students are engaged and making gains as writers and readers. Easy might mean accessible to them. But we are so caught up in terms like "complex texts" and "close reading" and testing, testing, testing ... that we forget that we want entry points for everyone.
    Your line of "Most of them identify themselves as readers and writers when sixth grade is done" is exactly a line that I use with parents all the time.
    (high five)
    Kevin

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    Replies
    1. (High five)
      YES!! Exactly, Kevin. Thank you so much for your comment. This is exactly what I was trying to convey.

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  5. Sassy is a good word in my book - it connotes spirit. I agree with kevin and offer a high five of my own, Michelle - bravo!

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  6. Magical words from a student. It is all about perception. As teachers we start to question ourselves when a student says the word "easy." In fact you have given them the challenge to do the work and to get their head in the game and they have done them. Without motivation nothing is easy.

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  7. You know when we see those Olympic athletes, or an artist in her or his show doing a little painting as we watch? They make it look easy, as if we could strap on skis and come careening down the giant slalom run, or pick up a paintbrush and start painting. But they are experts, just like you, Michelle. You make it all look, seem, feel "easy". Great stuff!

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  8. I had a student today tell me the standardized test was easy! I asked what made it easy? The student said, "I knew everything, because we do it in class all the time." Great! I can go with "easy."

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