A Letter asking for HELP

I’m a bit perplexed and need your help. How would you react if your students said this to you:

“I really like what you are saying about all of the Chemistry stuff, but I don’t have time to sit down and learn it. Can you talk to me later?”

“Ya’ know, this book is great but I’m swamped with practice and social time. I think I’ll read it later when things aren’t so hectic.”

“I know… I know… these problems are important but I have five other classes, so I had to prioritize and the problems… well, they aren’t the top priority right now.”

“While I understand the importance of this project and all, I just don’t have time to meet with my group members, so maybe you should give us time during the day so we can get this done.”

Any help? How do you go about working with students that raise the concerns about time whenever you try to extend their learning and growth opportunities?

Really, I’m just curious because my students are adults…


  1. This is funny. I think I’ve heard most of these in some form or another. The best part is that the students really mean what they say. They think they’re really busy and can’t possibly get everything done.

  2. Oooh..that’s good. Will have to remember this the next time I hear from a colleague that I obviously have more free time than they do.

  3. Lisa mentioned your post on twitter. I am glad I checked it out. Putting words we hear (all too frequently) into the mouths of students is quite humorous. It’s nice to smile at the end of the day!

  4. You’ve struck at a raw nerve, Ryan. Even in my own family–students who are a junior and 8th grader respectively–I get this “all the time.” The emphasis on busy, scheduled, over-the-top content mastery, social time, not to mention the level of organized sports (if I gave you their schedule you would really groan) sets my “learning, exploring, experiencing, reading-beyond-what-is-required” MO up as the bad, nerdy guy/gal in the room.

    Not sure what to tell you. Until school communities–parents, admin, faculty, and all the specials—agree that learning is a priority and that it TAKES TIME we’ll be swimming upstream. Just glad to know there are other paddlers out there.


  5. Things brings up something pretty important in the real world – prioritizing. We do it everyday. It is rather fascinating that students are thinking like that as well. It sounds like they are not saying they don’t want to do it, it’s just that the timing isn’t right. I would strongly consider allowing them to work on the project or assignment within a certain time period. Perhaps other things have to be moved around, but if they can begin working on this skill now, they will be better prepared down the road. As teachers, we often think that our work is the most important, but for some students, other subjects some first. Good luck!

  6. Things brings up a very interesting skill- prioritizing. It seems as though the students are not saying they don’t want to do the work, it’s just that the timing is not right. I would strongly consider having a conversation and finding out when they could get the work done. In our little teacher world, we often view our subject as the most important, but for some students, other subjects might be more critical for them. In this case, I would think a generous time line could work. Your still telling the students that the work needs to get done, but perhaps you could be flexible.

  7. You could show them this…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obdd31Q9PqA
    My 7th and 8th graders were whining lat week, the week, I took a minute and showed this. They all got down to work.

    But,seriously, we all feel the time pressure. It feels like it gets worse every day. These kids (and their teachers) are multi-tasking constantly. When are we going to stop adding things without taking some of it away. I feel like the teachers I try to get to use technology in the classroom, are thinking- “oh great- one more thing”. I wish I could find more time to make it one more thing that would make other things easier, for both the kids and the teachers.

  8. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like most of the comments so far misread what you’re saying.

    I hear your message loud and clear.

    Teachers wouldn’t put up with any of these statements from their kids for a second, but it’s the exact message that comes out of their mouths when it comes to learning new things and using them in their classrooms.

  9. Yeah – I think there was a bit of misreading here.
    I find that teachers, students, administrators, etc., all find time for the things they most value and believe are important. Our job, I guess, is to show them why what we have to offer is so valuable and useful to them.
    We can’t force feed learning to anyone who isn’t interested. When you “offer” someone a growth opportunity, they have to be interested in growing. I wish I knew the magic bullet on that one.

  10. I got the post as well and had to smile because we have all heard these from our colleagues. I would definitely not accept this from a student and wonder why it should even be said at all in our profession. I want to tell them to get another job!

    It is funny. I think it was a comment on one of Will’s posts that they akin not stepping up to new pedagogy as being educational malpractice. If we heard these same things from a surgeon who could increase the survival rate of a patient through changing techniques, we would surely call him accountable for not doing so.

  11. Yes, I got it too. I would not accept those comments from a student. Why should teachers be allowed to do that? Should we not be modeling learning practices?

    A comment was made to one of Will Richardson’s blog posts (sorry, his blog is blocked here) about educational malpractice. If a surgeon could increase longevity by changing a procedure, would we hold him accountable if he didn’t?

    Why would our profession be different?

  12. A lot of interesting points here from all of you in relation to how to relate this back to students. Now, how do we handle it when the same thing occurs with our teachers? Do we treat them the same way we would if students raised these questions?



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