When They Don’t Care (About What You Care About)

My high school students are working on their final projects examining a shift in US history. They’re digging into primary and secondary sources, creating timelines, drafting papers, conducting interviews, and planning learning experiences for the whole class. They choose a wide range of areas of focus for their projects, and I’ve seen many of them come alive when given the chance to dig into their passions.

I’ll confess I’m a little bummed because they’ve left out some of the topics in which I am most interested (namely religion, law, education, and agriculture) and about which I already have tons of resources at the ready. Not having a ready set of sources to pass along means that I’ve had to dig along with students in their research. It’ll also mean that when they present their learning experiences to the class, I’ll be more authentically a student and less a teacher playing student.

Powerful reminders that it’s not about me.


2 thoughts on “When They Don’t Care (About What You Care About)

  1. So often have the same feeling with project based learning and student choice as you do! Doing the take action project in science – they want to study and save abused animals in shelters. I want them to do something about climate change… Thank you for the inspiration to GIVE them choice when you say you will and stick with it. It’s been amazing what they come up with when they get to pursue their own passions.


  2. Same issue here. I can think of two examples in the last week. My students were required to choose a short story to read. It could be anything, by any author, with the exception of a short story written for young children. I had collections available in the room, lists of prize-winning short stories, and I suggested that students pick a favorite author and see if that author had written any short stories. Utter lack of interest on their part. One even said “just give us a story and we’ll read it, but we won’t read anything you don’t make us read.” A science teacher mentioned a similar event in his class. A group had a question about radon that couldn’t be answered in the book. Even with all the laptops open, not a one turned to Google. They threw their hands up and waited a good long while before the teacher got to their lab table. When he asked them why they hadn’t tried to find the answer the responded “just tell us.”

    Is this the February malaise that happens every year or something more?

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