Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Ouch! My Brain Hurts!": Rigor in the Classroom

I watched this video, and cracked up! I was trying to find articles about rigor and bumped into this video. It's a bit long in making its point, but I get it. This poor teacher is being hounded by her principal, to "perform" , so that her students can learn the parts of speech. I don't have a problem with rigor in the classroom, I embrace it.

I love how a contributor to the article, Rigor:What Does It Mean to You?, described rigor. She said,"Rigor makes you want to get up in the morning and learn something new!" However, I can understand the consternation and frustration of the teacher in the video.  Her principal is dead set on making her use "rigor" in her classroom, this magical thing that can make students learn.

It seems as if the principal is looking for "rigor",  as if it's a word that can be checked off on an evaluation form, and it is so far from that.  The teacher explains repeatedly, that she's jumped through hoops to teach the concept, (I'm laughing while I write, thinking about the video). The principal and the teacher, however, continues to equate rigor with  "fun".

 Rigor to me means that my students are challenged.  Rigor is not always fun, not the way we usually think of fun.  A teacher in my school described it the same way one of the authors in the article described it, she said, "It makes your brain hurt."And I believe our students want that. Not all, at first. But they become used to it, used to the challenges offered every day. 

 Why give out a worksheet with 10 figures and ask them to find the perimeter and area, when you can give them a real world Math problem that requires them to, not only determine which they need, but also calculate how much money they will need? Which one will make their brain hurt? 

 Why ask them to read p.456 in the SS textbook about the U.S bombing Japan during WWII, when you can break them up into two teams, who use their notes to debate whether or not the U.S should have used the atomic bomb on Japan. And you know what? They had fun doing it!And even more, they cared! 

 They cared about figuring out the answer to that Math problem, and they cared about making their point during the debate. (Boy, did they care!)  After each of these lessons were taught in my room, my students were hyped!  No, they didn't stick their fingers in pudding, or make up a song( which is a cool thing to do), but they had a great time challenging themselves, and being satisfied, whether they knew it or not. 

 When I was nominated for Teacher of the Year, a teacher that used to push into my class for writing, noted on the nomination form, that rigor was present in my classroom every day. I hope so, because I want my students to care,  and I want their brains to hurt!:)