I once caught an 11th-grader who snuck a cheat sheet into the final exam.
At first, he tried to shuffle it under some scratch paper. When I cornered him, he shifted tactics. “It’s my page of equations,” he told me. “Aren’t we allowed a formula sheet? The physics teacher lets us.” Nice try, but no dice. The principal and I rejected his alibi and hung a fat zero on his final exam. That dropped his precalculus grade down from a B+ to a D+. It lingered like a purple bruise on his college applications.
Looking back, I have to ask myself: Why didn’t I allow a formula sheet? Cheat sheets aim to substitute for memorization, and I hate it when my students memorize things.
"What’s the sine of π/2?" I asked my first-ever trigonometry class.
"One!" they replied in unison. "We learned that last year."
So I skipped ahead, later to realize that they didn’t really know what “sine” even meant. They’d simply memorized that fact. To them, math wasn’t a process of logical discovery and thoughtful exploration. It was a call-and-response game. Trigonometry was just a collection of non-rhyming lyrics to the lamest sing-along ever.
Read more. [Image: Amy Loves Yah/Flickr]
And this is why our school system is broken.
They’re more concerned about spitting out parrots than intelligent human beings. Learning is not about memorization. It’s about actually understanding what you’re being taught, and applying it in real-world situations.
In all my time in private, public school AND college, there was only ONE teacher that understood this. Dr. J went over tests and quizzes orally in class, and explained WHY each answer was what it was.
I learned more from that Botany class than I have from any other Gen-ed class. And as everyone knows, college is supposed to be stressful and crazy. But I actually enjoyed that class, because it didn’t come with the overwhelming fear and stress that most classes do.
I didn’t have to worry about performing and remembering lengthy scientific definitions and terms. Instead, I actually learned how things worked, in terms I could understand and remember.
And every time I was forced to memorize a bunch of definitions or formulas for other classes, I only memorized them for a test. They were stored in short-term memory then quickly forgotten once I no longer needed it in my head.
When people figure out that humans NATURALLY like learning and working, the school system will change. (hopefully)
Make it fun.
It shouldn’t be stressful to learn.
I’ve already forgotten the majority of what I learned in public school and college. I found myself forgetting basic math problems the other day.
Imagine my embarrassment when CANADIANS knew Benjamin Franklin was never president, but I had already forgotten that little tidbit.
On the flipside, the school I’m at now has this amazing history professor who is also troubled that kids aren’t LEARNING, they’re MEMORIZING, and then forgetting before a test.
We never had a test in our history class, yet I remember more from that class than any other history class I took because he always found a way to bring it back to the beginning and have it relate to our desired career field.
Not to mention, he told it as a story. History isn’t about: “in 19XX Person A invented this thing and then in 19XX Person B did this thing.” The way we were taught was more: A leads to B which leads to C, and then C cause D to happen. So we were taught the STORY of animation history, and we learned more from it.
Aw, jeez. This was a longer response than I meant it to be.
it took me a very long time to find out I even liked history. I had a great teacher in grade 4/5 but what you cover is extremely limited. I didn’t have another good history teacher until my second high school.
I actually fell asleep once during history at my first HS, only time that has ever happened.
To this day I have not passed a Canadian History course (I got the credit by doing Native History), because the good history teacher never taught it,. He taught Irish history, African (Covering Africa during the time when Europe was still in the stone age, all the way up to like..Obama), Native history.
It was in those classes where I learned just how important the teaching of history is. That whole “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it” yes to an extent probably.
What happens to interest me is learning why the world we live in is the way it is.
Honestly I find it amazing how people hundreds of years ago related to each other, trying to figure out how they built some goddamn crazy things , that have mostly survived history (when I think a lot of what we have built recently won’t last 50 years much less 400).
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