What do the students want to know?

First day of the new school year today. First class, Year 10 English, a class of pretty switched on boys. We’re starting a semester-long unit on satire, and I’d prepared reasonably carefully: a unit plan outlining where we would go in the first couple of weeks, a wiki which gave details of the whole course, and a ning ready for our collaborations.

The boys were outside the classroom waiting for the lesson to start. I opened the door, found 26 mainly-unfamiliar faces in front of me, said hello, then asked (while they waited outside the door):

“OK, who’s got a question for me?


So I said, “Well, it’s been good meeting you,” and shut the door. I could hear them murmuring outside, some puzzled, some bemused.

A couple of minutes later, I opened the door again. “Any questions?”

“Why do we have to ask questions?” the first one asked.

“Thanks,” I said. ‘Write your question on the board.”

“What happens if we don’t ask a question? … Why did Tottenham lose last weekend? … Are we doing lots of writing this year? … What text are we starting with? …” And so on. Each time a boy asked a question, I gave him a whiteboard marker and he entered the room and wrote his question up.

The board was soon full of questions, and we talked about them one-by-one. They were good and helpful questions.

But two questions stood out from the rest. The room was especially still as they were read out. It was clear that these two questions mattered a lot to the boys.

The first was, “What are you like?”

The second was “What do you hope we will have achieved by the end of the year?”

The class finished an hour or so ago, but I’ve found myself thinking more about these two questions and their significance to the students. I don’t know whether my responses to the two questions enlightened them at all. I do know, though, that the fact that they wanted to ask these two questions, and the stillness in the room as I tried to answer them, told me quite a lot about what was on their minds as we began our work together.

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2 Responses to What do the students want to know?

  1. Augustin says:

    Hmmm, interesting… Come to think of it, I never had a teacher that started his/her first class with “This is who I am…”. Though, in retrospect, I think it would have been nice.

    On another note — any chance of you blogging the answers to those two questions? 🙂

  2. steveshann says:

    I might have a crack at the second 🙂

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