Elephants in the Classroom?

This week we had read an article titled 9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should “Unsettle” Us by Will Richardson. This article gives 9 topics, or elephants, that we do not wish to acknowledge while in the classroom. Reading this article, I agreed with all of them and would think about how these topics would never come up in school. People just didn’t want to answer hard questions such as why we are learning what we are or how this material will impact our futures. I chose two “elephants” that I think need to be brought out into the open and discussed.

The first is that “We know that most of our students will forget most of the content that they “learn” in school.” This is the first elephant listed and I immediately found it to be true. There are times when I would have a problem in front of me and I know I had learned how to solve it at some point in school. It may be something simple, but I am at a loss for how to solve it. This isn’t because I didn’t learn it well but I simply forgot. The article states that only a fraction of what is learned can be retained even a year after learning it. The reason for this is because the material does not have relevance in the students’ lives. I saw this all the time and continue to see it. Many students will question why they have to learn this when they know they will not ever use it again. Some get aggravated and some just don’t try because they feel it is pointless. Some examples I have seen on how to solve this is reviewing. Specifically in math class, there would always be review problem from previous chapters. This would force us to think back and remember certain steps to solve because we will still need to remember for future lessons.

The second elephant I found to be important is “We know that grades, not learning, are the outcomes that students and parents are most interested in.” I groaned when I read this one. Every time my parents want to discuss school with me it is always the same question. Not “What are you learning?” but “Are your grades good?” I think this has more to do with having to pay for school now that I am in college. However, this was still the same in high school only my parents had better access to my grades and teachers if they had questions. Grades are important, of course, but they cannot truly measure our learning. However, I think I understand this elephant. For parents, it is safe to assume that if we have good grades then we must be learning something, right? However, it is possible to have good grade but not have learned a thing. I have had a class like this while attending college. It was a simple class and we had all our work laid out for us to complete. Some assignments would be as simple as filling out a worksheet from the text, but not getting an elaboration on what we read. This is a big elephant and I am unsure if we can move away from this. In our system, we are defined, as students, by our grades.

The article brings out more elephants to be addressed and there are plenty more in the classroom. Our education system is not perfect and we are pretty much set in our ways. However, like the article states, these elephants should indeed unsettle us.


One thought on “Elephants in the Classroom?

  1. I loved the two that you picked. These both hit me so hard because I have also forgotten a lot of what I learned throughout school. I think that we as teachers need to find ways to help make it fun and help them remember and retain it. Also, I think that as students we often times only worry about the final grade. I think if we learn it the grades will come with it. How do you think in your own classroom that you could change this?


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