Poetry Friday & The Participation Point

Magic Words

Blaze coolly.
Save your
unless an ear that hears for an open mind
is listening.
Let them think you dumb.
Let them dominate the discourse.
Never reveal what shivers and boils
beneath brown tree green eyes,
veiny wrists,
unless what pleads to be said
bears importance
trembles and echoes.


Ok, so here's a poem I wrote a couple years ago in college. I wrote bad poetry for a while. This is not a pity plea for you to tell me otherwise. It's just a plain old fact. Anyhow, maybe my professors, if any are reading, are laughing and thinking that they never knew me to be one to sit quietly. But it's funny to look back at the poem now, as a teacher. With all of the emphasis on getting to every student to contribute something every day, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that not every student always feels what they have to say is important. And yes, we should be validating their perspectives. And yes, we should be assuring them that their contributions are worthwhile and important to the classroom community. However, I knew as a student that at times what I had to say about something was either not topical enough to be addressed at the time or not pertinent enough to add depth to the discussion. It's a fallacy to assume that students always always always have something to say about a given idea. We need to remember what it felt like to sit in a class and silently evaluate whether or not we should speak. We need to teach our students that yes, what they have to say matters buuuuut we must teach them likewise to be thoughtful speakers who can contribute genuinely because they feel compelled to by the quality of their contribution, not just to have secured the much-sought-after participation point :::shudder::: --a point just undefined enough to dangle ominously over their heads. I don't do the participation point. I prefer to create a relationship with my students by which they feel comfortable enough to contribute without being forced or cajoled into it. This doesn't mean I don't push them towards and support them in the process of becoming more community-minded, social people. It means that nobody needs to be nagged into contributing. I'd rather not have them speak if this is how I must go about having them do so.

Your thoughts?


enc said...

Oh hooray, the voice of reason. I think that unless one is in a language course, required participation can be oppressive.

What about the shy (but insightful) student who is too intimidated to speak? What about the blatherer who talks just to hear himself? Where would the in-between be?

You pinpoint it.

Better to have students speak up when they want to, instead of forcing them to speak up to earn points.

This is interesting from the commenting-on-blogs standpoint, and the responding-to-comments-in-blogs standpoint.

As a blogger, I feel compelled to comment on posts, and to respond to comments made on my posts. But many times, I would prefer to just sit and absorb. Sometimes I am moved to make a comment, but it may not be original. Or first. All I am is one of a chorus at that point, and I begin to feel . . . like a sheep.

Not that there's anything wrong with sheep.

teach people not books said...

enc, i really like the point your raising here about the blogging world. i too want to comment often and with interest, but i think it's much more important to comment when you feel compelled to do so. i would be amiss to want my students to force contrived responses, and i'm sure the same goes for the responses we give and receive as bloggers.

sometimes we're the sheep, sometimes we're the sheppard :]