Jun 11 2008

The problem with ‘investing’

The problem with ‘investing.’

This is a buzzword I’ve been hearing a lot from new TFA CMs. ‘Investing,’ they’ve learned, is a very important thing to establish in your class right away. If the students are invested, they will be motivated to learn. If they’re motivated to learn, they will learn, which will make them even more invested. Sounds nice.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way with a real class.

You see, investing is something that you should not force on your class. You don’t come in on the first day saying ‘This class is a team, and if one of us failed, our team failed. I’m going to help everyone learn, and we’re going to help each other out, and then we can all progress together.’

In an ideal world, or in the movies, that might work. But to a group of kids who have heard speeches like that before, they are just empty words and promises.

You can get ‘investing’ and you can get motivation and you can get learning. But they don’t happen in that order.

Start with the learning. Don’t talk about how great you are as a teacher and how much you believe in them on the first day. Teach them something. Make it a clear lesson with an activity that makes sense. If everyone completes the activity and then you assess them and the students did well and they believe that they’ve learned, then suddenly they feel some confidence. They feel confidence in themselves and confidence in you, their teacher. After enough successes like this, the students naturally develop a sense of ‘investing.’

Let the ‘investing’ develop naturally when the students believe you can lead them, not because you said you can, but because you proved you can with some good teaching.

I’m a TFA old timer, Houston 1991. I’ve been following the evolution of the TFA institute and training philosophy for 17 years. Throughout the years, I’ve presented workshops at the different institutes and have gauged the progress of the training model by the feedback I’ve received. My ideas eventually became a book ‘Reluctant Disciplinarian’, which may or may not be circulating around the institutes. You won’t find it on any reading list, required, recommended, or otherwise. (More on that in another entry.)

It’s been a long time since I’ve worked at an institute (1996), but I have a sense about what goes on there from the comments CMs make when they attend my workshops at the post-institute training for the NY region. Let me know if I’m off-base about what I think is going on there.

2 Responses

  1. Nice website!!

  2. Delta Blues

    As I am preparing for second year I’m only reading anything not suggested by TFA: Literacy with an Attitude, The Rhetoric of Mental illness (which is really a college text about communication), A Framework for Understanding Poverty, and your blog. I’ll order Beyond Survival when I have an extra dime or two. Great work!

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By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum

High School

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