It’s your education

In reading about Mt. Everest, Ric00chet encounted a quotation from nick Heil’s Dark Summit.

Ultimately, no greater responsibility exists than that which falls on each individual climber – whether he or she is an expedition leader, guide, Sherpa, or paying client. Too much has been written, said, filmed, and photographed for anyone going to Mount Everest not to be fully aware of the risks of climbing to 29,035 feet. Only a fool would put complete faith in someone else to guarantee their safety, or bail them out of trouble if a problem arises, though certainly the mountain continues to attract its share of fools.

Education is like that too, she writes.

I tell my students it is their education and they are responsible – I have learned as much from horrid teachers as good ones – sometimes more because I had to work a lot harder to pull the information out of the stratosphere. If you are an active learner you will learn. If you are waiting for someone to deliver it to you, make it “relevant”, make it fun – you will be left behind.

In an earlier post, Ricochet remembers sage advice: At work, at home or at school, be where you are. Many of her students are present physically, but not mentally.

They talk, sleep, text, do homework for other classes, read novels. I believe that you learn math by doing math. I do math. They are not there. They take a test and bomb it. Somehow it is up to me to come up with something to fix it. They were in class when I taught the material. They were in class when I asked them to do work. They were in class when I reviewed the material for a study guide I created by going over what was taught. (remember doing that?) They were in class when I asked if there were any questions.

“Eighty percent of success is showing up,”  Woody Allen once said. Mind and body.

About Joanne


  1. I wish my CC students understood this basic fact. However, they are too busy texting (under the table, where they think I won’t notice) to bother getting an education.

    Of course, when they bomb the class and have to repeat it, it’ll be my fault, somehow ~

  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    She is, of course, right. However, I very much suspect the reason the students are behaving as they are is that they are not really trying to learn the material. And why are they not trying to learn the material? Because they are not interested in it and they do not expect to use it.

    They are probably right about the latter. So why do we keep forcing them to take all these courses, and expecting different results?

  3. A large part of the problem is our insistence on forcing all kids into the same curriculum, even if they are lack the necessary preparation or the motivation. Some kids would do better if they were grouped according to educational need and some would do better in a vo-tech program that reflects their interest. That said, as my HS-principal FIL used to say; “Learning is an active process, not a passive one.” It’s not like pouring water into a glass; effort is required and that’s why poor Asian immigrants succeed in the same schools where most kids fail.

  4. Mike in Texas says:

    Careful Joanne, you may lose you access to the anti-teacher right wing database.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      To a large extent, I think anti-teacher talk is chickens coming home to roost. For years, the organized teaching profession (in which I include the ed schools) said that a properly trained teacher can successfully teach anyone. It was a lie, and we are now reaping the consequences. If a properly trained teacher can successfully teach anyone, and lots of kids aren’t learning, there must be a lot of crappy teachers.

      We should be yelling loudly, “Teachers can’t teach kids who don’t put in the effort. Lots of kids aren’t making the effort–but we can’t force them to put in the effort, and we can’t manipulate them into putting in the effort.”

  5. I’m a big fan of vocational training, but students being forced into the wrong courses is not necessarily the problem. I taught a CC pre-nursing biology class…the student were choosing their career path, and it was a prereq…and there were still problems with not studying, sleeping or texting in class, etc. It was mostly younger students – students who had worked for a while seemed much more willing to apply themselves to the work.

    • Lulu: I’m not saying that forcing students into the wrong courses is the whole problem, only one part of it. Teaching specific knowledge and skills and requiring mastery of same is also a problem. No kid of close-to-average ability should enter HS without mastery of the fundamentals; in math, basic arithmetic and its facts and algorithms, decimals, fractions, percentages and their manipulation and relationships shouldn’t be too much to ask. The foundations of all the subjects need to be laid in k-5 and it’s not happening.

      It seems that the k-12 system has enabled this behavior by watering down courses and making paying attention and studying largely unnecessary. A close relative, who took early retirement from teaching HS history because of the push to make everything easy and give essentially nothing less than Bs (no matter how unjustified), told me that he had asked his son how he got As in history, because he never did any reading or studying. His son said that the teachers always “reviewed” the day before the test, which really meant that they went over the whole test and the expected answers. Having a good memory, he had to pay attention on only one day per testing period. I’m betting that there’s a lot of that going around. In math, I’ve heard that so much partial credit is given, that it is possible to get As without getting a single problem correct.

      • I agree that unprepared students are a real problem, and enabling slacker behavior is a real problem. I teach at a homeschool co-op, and I have some students taking their first high school course. Having taught at a CC, I tell them that I’m trying to steer them towards college expectations gently – my homework questions are basically having them make their own study guides, weekly quizzes make sure that they stay caught up and help them catch problems early, and the tests aren’t much easier than what I gave at the CC.

        What makes this work is that their parents back me up 100%. They tell students that they’d rather them do poorly now than when they’re on their own and the stakes are higher, that they know that I’m willing to help if they ask, and that sometimes you just have to work. Some of my students still do just enough to get by (and, if their plans don’t include STEM work, a B/C from me is fine), but others have really learned to apply themselves and could probably take college classes next year. As one mom told me, ‘my kid learned that if he stays on top of it and is prepared, they can ask for help in class and never be overwhelmed’. Learning that will be more useful to them than any content information that I’m trying to teach.

        • Too many kids aren’t responsible for any effort. Until recently, another relative used to be a volunteer tutor for HS math/physics (retired BS-MS engineer), for “struggling” kids who had rarely done homework. After quite a number of sessions spent doing increasingly difficult problems until he could get correct answers, one kid said “Now I’m understanding what the teacher is saying in class.” The kid was a junior; he should have been responsible for doing homework for at least 5-7 years. The school does no favors by making everything easy. Kids need to be taught how to take notes, how to outline, how to go over all the assigned materials and identify important points; in other words, how to STUDY and be held responsible for the results.

  6. Stacy in NJ says:

    It’s pretty obvious part of our educational problems originate in culture. We cannot force people to value what they don’t value (education). We can provide everyone with the opportunity to attend excellent schools that actually know what excellence and reasonable standards are.

    Our problems lie in our willingness to lie to ourselves and each other. We lie to kids mercilessly.

  7. Cranberry says:

    Why does Ricochet tolerate students talking, texting, reading novels, doing homework for other classes in her/his classroom?

    It seems to me, yes, of course, students who dedicate themselves to learning will learn. However, we begin school as children, and children are childish. The school system must teach students how to study. The responsibility transfers itself from the shoulders of the adults to the shoulders of the maturing students gradually over time. We don’t expect the same behavior from a kindergartner as from an 11th grader.

    As each year’s learning depends upon the lessons taught the year before, early lessons are particularly important. How to behave in a classroom and how to learn (i.e., diligence, organization, doing homework, studying for tests) are essential lessons. High school is too late to teach those lessons. Middle school would be a better time–and even middle school depends upon competent primary schools.

    • Mike in Texas says:

      I suspect it has something to do with he teaches college, if the kids want to do that they are wasting their own time and money.

    • Mike in Texas says:

      Whoops, sorry, confused Ricochet with Lee

  8. Julie Jacko says:

    I am also a teacher and I also face same problem with students, they are busy with texting and playing mobile games. I would say some students are forced to study even thought they are not ready to study. Every student has different passion and interest, we can’t force them to study what they don’t want to study.

    Julie Jacko

  9. In the high school classes where my male child has been inattentive and texting, the problem is always that the content is being delivered in an auditory fashion, and he is expected to rote memorize what he heard, then spit back on the test. Not only is he not interested in this style of teaching, he’s not able. Like many young men, he’s visual/spatial when it comes to learning content for certain classes…and many of his high school classes have no text and no readings. Like many curious students, he doesn’t want to memorize procedures without understanding. And like many visual-spatial learners, he’s not part-to-whole, he’s whole to part. His learning style is not included in the mainstream classroom and he’s too intelligent to qualify for sped. With the new deal of no textbooks, he is set up for failure unless his parents care to hire a tutor.