My colleagues and I met to discuss our successes and failures with the Spaghetti Bridge lesson.  Oddly enough, others that tried this same lesson had the same exact problems that I encountered.  Students had no drive or motivation to complete the assignment.... sadly enough, we also discussed that is much the issue during ANY lesson.  Students lack the curiosity and work ethic necessary to complete an open-ended problem such as this.  They don't want to solve the problem... it's almost like they are too lazy to think through the problem.  They look for easy ways out of the situation.  For example, I had no less than three groups of students that put spaghetti flat on the table, set the textbook on top of the spaghetti, and then said "Yep!  The spaghetti supports the weight of the textbook."  They didn't use math, science, or any other form of higher order thinking.  Additionally, when I asked them to think BEYOND this answer, students literally rolled their eyes, clearly inconvenienced by the change in plans.

So how do we "fix" this?  No one really had an answer to the monumental question.  Teachers feel exhausted at the end of the day, constantly struggling to encourage and motivate students.  The standards continue to be more and more challenging with each passing day.  Even as we speak, Common Core Standards are raising the bar in math, pushing students to grasp increasingly complex concepts and younger ages.


They can do it, of this I have no doubt.  But do they want to?


Our next challenge is to develop another Meyer-ized lesson that balances structure with an open-ended problem.  We'd like to engage students, motivating them to come up with a thoughful solution to the problem, rather than just the easiest solution.

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Comment by Beverly George on March 2, 2011 at 8:37am
That is certainly a PROACTIVE approach to the problem, isn't it??  I love it!  You mentioned that schools have tried this "raising the bar" idea.... any word on how it worked for them?
Comment by Barbara Assenmacher on March 1, 2011 at 6:28pm
I think that my biggest frustration as a teacher is when a student earns a grade that I know is much lower than what they are capable of if they were to put forth their best effort. When did scraping by and doing the bare minimum to earn a D- and credit become acceptable for a large number of students? I sometimes wish our school would go to a ABF or ABCF scale like some schools have tried in the past. What about making a 70% the new 60%? If students are only willing to do what needs to be done to reach the minimum, I say raise the minimum. I just don't think that I'd have the support at a school level which is what would be needed for it to be successful.
Comment by Beverly George on February 28, 2011 at 4:24pm
Very insightful thoughts you all have!  I'll have to see if the msnbc information is online somewhere for me to view.  I'm interested!  Thanks for sharing!
Comment by Kara Roberts on February 25, 2011 at 3:59pm

Somehow, someway, we need to begin the year with a no fail attitude in our classes.  Students need to get back into the understanding that school is important and they cannot fail or choose to not do an activity or assignment just because they do not want to (the low economy does not support this, but we get what we get).  To me this idea sounded basic, so I am trying it this year and it is a huge struggle.  I am finding that it needs to be the school that has to come together, administration and staff, to devise a program or support team for students who struggle academically or behaviorly.  One teacher can not do it alone. 

Right now so many teachers are frustrated with the fact that you ask kids to delve deeper and they fight you or give up.  The students lack the motivation to do more or think through a problem.  We need to find a solution to this problem and I am at a loss with the rest of you.

Comment by Jamie Tuch on February 24, 2011 at 10:50pm
Beverly,  I watched msnbc last night and there was an economist from Columbia University on there.  He stated that teachers have become the victim of public opinion with the failings of the public schools.  People need someone to blame for the failings of society.  Teachers are just an easy target.  Unions are being blamed and teachers are overpaid in public opinions because there is a fundamental breakdown in how society raises young people these days.  Early childhood programs have been canceled,  parents are unemployed, and there is no accountability of students outside of the school setting.  We are working harder than we ever have and we are getting less effort from the students.  I am sad to say that I feel I care more about their grades than they do.  I too see exactly what you are running into.  For some reason I have become an at-risk person in our school for the past umpteen years, and not by choice I might add.  Somehow I got stuck here because I have a background in juvenile court and because I "care."  Teachers in my own department tell me to get my failure rates up and I will get better students to work with.  I will bet you there are a huge amount of teachers on this site that deal with this every day also, and just don't admit it.  I think it is a bigger problem that we let the public know about.

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