Riding the train home from work today, I was sitting in the vicinity of two 14 year old-looking boys I’d never seen before. They were having a somewhat raucous conversation about taking pictures and posting them and then deleting them and getting girls’ numbers and that sort of thing. My tired mind tuned it out, and when I happened to tune back in, the conversation had taken a turn:

“Nah, I didn’t do that either,” said the first boy.

“I might fail that class,” said the second boy.

“Yeah, but she’s a very, like, disorganized teacher, so I just focus on my really important classes, like U.S. History.”

“Yeah, me too.”

I was quietly amused. I’ve been on both sides of this coin. I saw myself in both the “disorganized” teacher and the “really important” teacher they referenced. It was funny to hear the students’ frank words.

What exactly makes students (especially adolescents) feel like a class is important? I think organization is an interesting idea to pick apart here. There is organization in the typical sense. Do you I know where things are? Do I lose students’ papers? Do I check homework and collect assignments? Is there a sense of order in the physical space?  Organization in the traditional sense is important.

Another huge factor is the organization of the learning experiences students have.  Are they sequenced logically?  Are they appropriately paced?  Do they lead students to conceptual understanding?  If students feel like the individual experiences they have in a class seem to be part of a unified curriculum–where small ideas have a clear place in connection to larger concepts, which have relevance in their lives and the world–students are more likely to find meaning in the work…and that makes it “important.”


[image credit: robertmanni.com]

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