Are you a lazy teacher?
I know a lot of lazy teachers, really lazy. They won’t necessarily admit to it, but they are definitely the ‘lazy type’. Perhaps you know some as well? And I don’t mean idle, I mean lazy.
I’m a lazy teacher and quite proud of it, but it’s still a real effort nevertheless. You see, being lazy doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve always worked hard, exceptionally hard and on many occasions much more so than the learners in front of me. That’s why it was refreshing to read a book one day that described ‘my life’ and I thought. “Why the hell am I doing this?”
Instead of running around doing everything, get learners to do more so that they learn more. As Smith says,
“Why was I busting a gut all the time running from the photocopier to the stock cupboard, handing out books and taking in homework as I went? Why was I constantly on the go whilst they just sat there? It was their education after all? It was at this point, bitten by the twin radioactive spiders of resentment and fatigue, that my superhero alter ego ‘The Lazy Teacher’ was born.”
If you are a ‘Red Bull’ teacher with wings then you’ll be hyper-active, edgy, multi-tasking, pumped, dabbing, uber-energetic and saving the world … you will also be close to burning out and having a heart attack. Going from a full-on lunatic teacher and doing everything to being ‘lazy’ isn’t an easy transition.
So, how does all this happen? Do you simply turn up to school one day and say “Sod it”? Being lazy isn’t ‘chillaxing’ or kicking back, but working more intelligently so that you are in control of your workload and your stresses, and crucially, learners are working harder than you are. The idea is they go home exhausted, not you. As Ian Gilbert (founder of Independent Thinking) says in the foreword to Jim Smith’s book,
The premise is simple – sometimes the best thing we can do to help children learn is to stop teaching them.
Being a lazy teacher, is being a ‘canny teacher’ who employs a range of strategies and techniques that get the learners do what they should be doing: learning. The Really Lazy Teacher’s Handbook is full of great lessons ideas that really promote thinking and you’ll find plenty of immediate inspiration.
The trick when doing things the Lazy Way is to capture those techniques you pulled out of the bag in a crisis and employ them in a systematic, less frantic manner.
Jim Smith’s book has a chapter packed with ideas for getting you out of tight spots that you can develop and are ideal for kick-starting lessons or for growing into whole lessons. One strategy he refers to is ‘Forrest Gump’.
Learning Is Like A Bag of Salad
In film of the same name, Forrest Gump, says “Mama always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Jim Smith uses this idea to encourage learners to think about making comparisons as a way of extending their thinking,
“Ask students to make a comparison between what they are learning about and another item, then sit back and watch them bamboozle you with some ‘deep thinking’:
The Second World War is like a garden fork because …
Quadratic equations are like a fish and chip shop because …
I have always know this strategy as being called ‘reasoning by analogy’ and they are normally embedded within a graphic organiser. It’s something I have used in science, maths and literacy although there are no subject boundaries to it and it can be used across the curriculum. They are seemingly simple sentence starters that illustrate some kind of relationship between the things compared. For example,
A sperm whale is like a submarine because …
A decimal point is like a concrete post because …
Blood is like tomato ketchup because …
They may appear a bit frivolous, but far from it, they get learners to work hard. Consider the last ‘Forrest Gump’ – what comparisons are there between blood and ketchup apart from the colour? Students could suggest that they both have sugar in them – true, but that’s not the end of the activity.
It’s a good idea to challenge them to find at least 3 similarities and to explain them and support their ideas through ‘evidence’. For example, students might go on to suggest that blood is like tomato ketchup because it contains water and it is also ‘elastic’. Using the internet as a research tool would be invaluable to support their thinking, particularly for this example as students can read more about the ‘stretchiness’ of blood and compare that to ketchup at Inside Science.
‘Forrest Gumping’ is just one of many activities that you will find in Jim Smith’s book. There are also plenty of instant off-the-shelf starters available in Start Thinking by Marcelo Staricoff and Alan Rees, which gave me the inspiration to think about the similarities and differences between blood and ketchup.
Having tried reasoning by analogy myself many times with primary and secondary students, I can confidently say that they have to work hard – that doesn’t mean I have been slothful and let them get on with it. I have still grafted but in a lazy way, by not providing all the prompts, all the questions or indeed, all the answers.
Being lazy is a lot about the strategies and techniques you use to engage learners with and how much learning and thinking you can milk out of them. To find out more about how to put these ideas into practice and a “…dead simple, works every time lessons structure” then head for Jim’s book where he shows you how.
Assessment is like an onion because …