Forty Opportunities to Respond

Teaching is hard!  I try to come up with new and exciting ways to teach so it’s not the same thing everyday.  I think each individual teacher has something unique to bring to the classroom that other teachers can’t.  with that said, sometimes your ideas for teaching work and sometimes they flop.  That is just the way it is.  I don’t care how great of a teacher you are.  Every teacher has had a lesson flop before…. probably more than once.  So here’s the question, should teachers be forced to teach a certain way to prevent flops?

Ogden School District has come up with a program to prevent flopping called forty opportunities to respond.  This new trend of teaching requires teachers to get forty responses from students every ten minutes of the class period.  You accomplish this by asking lots of questions.  You must get choral responses, single responses, and “All Accountable” responses.  A choral response is where students answer a question or read a definition all together at the same time.  A single response is where the teacher asks a specific student by name to answer a question, and an “All Accountable” response is where all students answer a question and the teacher can monitor weather their answers are wrong or right.  No, worksheets and assignments do not count as a response.  Teachers are evaluated by how many responses you get every ten minutes.  If you don’t get forty… you fail.  Your response to this kind of teaching?

While at a meeting the district showed us how to teach this way.  They had an expert come and teach one of our classes.  He came in, put up a power point and required students to put their thumbs up if they agreed with the answers, thumbs down if they disagreed. (an All Accountable response.)  He had students reading definitions out loud together (choral response), raising hands, etc.  He did this for ten minutes and while we were observing we were told to count how many responses he got from the class.  He received pretty close to forty but not quite.  Now, I think some of these Ideas are great for teaching especially during reviews.  But, why are we focusing on how many responses we get?  I think we should be more worried about quality not quantity.  To me a thumbs up or thumbs down doesn’t take much thinking.

I am not one who enjoys being told what to do.  I do not like to be told that I should teach this way or that.  I went to college, earned a degree and know what I am doing.  Is there room for improvement? Of course!!  But I’d prefer suggestions and I should be able to decide whether to use them or not.  I don’t think my evaluation score should be determined by how many students are raising their thumbs or reading definitions out loud.  I should be evaluated on preparation, management, and whether I taught a class of engaged learning students.  It shouldn’t matter how, as long as my students are engaged and learning.  Every classroom should have structure, I agree, but each teacher should have the right to create their own classroom environment.

I don’t think  this new way of teaching to get responses will stop “the flops”.  These students will get sick of being forced to respond to every thing we say.  They will get sick of always having to put their thumbs up or down, and many will chose not to participate just like in any type of teaching.  You will always have students that care, and students that don’t.  That doesn’t mean we give up on them, we’ve got to try and reach them.  Find something that will interest them.  And it’s possible that some of the districts ideas will reach them, but the teachers ideas can work as well.  They are the ones that spend time with these students every day.  They know them better than the any one in the district.

I’m not saying I don’t like the Opportunities to respond idea, but when we are forced to use it we are being told that our way of teaching is wrong.  And I think putting a number on responses required, forty in ten minutes, tells teachers to teach for responses not for learning.  Sometimes when learning you aren’t responding…. out loud, you’re just listening, writing, watching, or reading to your self, and I would consider those all great responses for learning.  I would also consider a flop of a lesson a response to teaching… not the kind of response a teacher would hope for, but a response none the less and one teachers can learn from.  Teachers also need to learn how to respond…. to the flops when they happen.  Learn how to improve by the watching the responses of the students.  Perhaps, turn the tables around and have the teachers evaluated on how  they respond to each class.  There will be a lot less flops if teachers respond to the individual needs of each class period.

Honestly, I feel students learn more from the teacher than from what is actually being taught.  What do you remember about your teachers?  Do you remember anything about their subject when you were in Junior high or high school? I don’t!  I remember how they taught.  Were they mean, strict, funny, kind, happy, weird?  Did they care about you?  Did they try to make class fun and interesting or was it the same note taking, lecturing bore everyday?  The classes you actually remember learning were the classes taught by teachers who did things differently.  The teacher that put their own unique spin on the subject and tried to get students to see what they see.  That is the ultimate response…. Getting student to see what you see.


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