What Trumps Lazy?

Earlier this month I spoke at Wyoming’s WyTECC conference in Rock Springs. Even though I was only able to spend one day at the conference, the hospitality of the event’s organizers and intimacy of the venue made it feel like a longer stay and I left behind some new good friends. Lately I’ve had the honor of speaking at a number of 20th and 25th annual state ed tech conferences. Wyoming was holding their second and there was an enormous amount of energy in that, not to mention excitement and pride. I was proud to be helping them celebrate their 2nd annual conference.

Evolution of a Blog Post

  1. Yesterday I spoke at…
  2. A few days ago, I spoke at…
  3. Last week ago I spoke at…
  4. Earlier this month I spoke at…

Have I become a lazy blogger?

Unlike most first, second and third state edtech gatherings, there was a good deal of tweeting going on in Rock Springs, and I ran my Knitter Chat tool during my two pre conference sessions and the evening keynote. The backchannel was active and rich and Knitter captured both knits and tweets.

One phrase caught my attention as I was reviewing and inserting comments into the backchannel transcript – during my three legs back to Raleigh. Someone mentioned how so many of his students were lazy. It’s a term, lazy, that works quite well in conversations about classrooms, and a term I would have readily used as a teacher almost 30 years ago, “Lazy learners.”

Lazy learners were part of the landscape of the classroom back then and that was OK. Where I taught, lazy learners would become active workers packing peaches and harvesting pulp wood. Where I grew up they would have become lint heads in the textile mills, and not apologized for it.

Today, however, there are not quite so many places for lazy learners to go when they graduate or don’t. ..and fortunately, we no longer excuse laziness. But how do we fuel energetic learning?

I inserted into the wiki page that hosted WyTECC’s backchannel,

What trumps lazy?

Success trumps lazy!

I want to explore two words that have been on my mind for a long time. I want to make a distinction between these two words, though it is one that is not made in the dictionary.  Some may say that I’m making up a distinction. But let’s plow ahead.  It’s my blog after all.

The words are achievement and accomplishment. They are so close that each is often used in the other’s definition and even in descriptions of their etymologies. Yet I would not necessarily use them interchangeably. The contexts determine the word I would us — and in the education context, I most often see, read or hear achieve.

“This student has achieved proficiency.”

“We are narrowing the achievement gap.”

To achieve something is to accomplish attain some predefined goal.

As difficult as it was to avoid using accomplish in that last sentence, accomplishment is, in my way of thinking, a little different. When I accomplish a thing, I can turn around and see something that is the result of my efforts — and it is real. It is not symbolic. And it is not easy to measure. It is, more times than not, of my own design and purpose.  I did it, at least in part, for my own reasons.

The more I think about it, the less certain I am of differences between achieve and accomplish.  Yet the distinction is real.  When our children complete a school task, have they merely learned something new, or have they become more capable.  Can they, the next day,

  • Do something that they couldn’t do before
  • Build something they were unable to before
  • Participate in a conversation that was foreign to them before
  • Sway someone’s opinion or earn a collaborator

Do they, in anyway, feel larger than the day before or noticeably further done their road.

I would suggest that many lazy learners are just tired of standing still.


6 thoughts on “What Trumps Lazy?”

  1. Funny, just today I was talking with a colleague about how I am a lazy teacher – I use that as my excuse for not lecturing and correcting.

    Another funny note – the lazier I am as a teacher, the less lazy my students seem to be. I’ve discovered that by not following a lecture/test/lecture some more recipe I’m able to create a learning climate that involves the students more. I agree, standing still for too long will laze anyone.

    1. @Tracy Rosen, I hadn’t thought about the lazy angle quite that way but it makes sense. Teaching becoming more passive while learning becomes more active.

      I often hear, though, that some students do not like active learning, especially those who are good a note- and test-taking. Has that been your experience?

      1. @David Warlick, I have found that it can take a little while for students to get used to a shift in learning format. For some, they have been sitting and taking notes and cramming for tests for many years so it takes a while to change perspectives. I don’t get rid of it altogether but it is not all I do (I’m too lazy 😉 ).

        I think what constitutes the ‘active learning’ part of the equation needs to be questioned…Note-taking is active learning at times, as is test-taking. But when that is all there is, it becomes … boring and uni-dimensional.

        Whatever is done in the classroom needs to be purposeful and help students to grow.

        So let me amend my statement, I use it, but purposefully and not all the time. And I try to show teachers that there are ways to ‘be’ in the classroom that don’t need to be all about lecture/notes + test.

  2. As a lazy learner myself, I have a hard time focusing and wanting to learn anything I am not fully interested in. However, once I have found something to spark my interest I am on fire! I find all there is on the subject and soak in all of the new knowledge. I feel that students are the same way. Many of the things we teach are, just boring. I even tell my kids, “today is a boring day.” This prepares them for the laziness they will be feeling. Then we work around it by creating activities and assignments that will turn our laziness into, “we can make it through the tough stuff because we are going to make it fun.” In my experience being honest with them and including our students in their learning process creates these experiences that they will not only remember but they will learn.

  3. I was reading a book recently that talked about students being extremely bored inside the classroom. Most of the issue was surrounding lack of purpose, rigor, engagement, and real-world application. The concept of being “lazy learners” has more to do with the teachers than it does with the students. It;s funny that when teachers become “lazy,” the students become more active. The concept of gradual release of responsibility plays a major role in creating this environment. Students need to feel more empowered to take responsibility for their education. I find more students becoming shocked when they ask me a question and I respond with “what do you think.” The students are not quite sure how to respond. Over the years, I found their to be a balance between helping a students and not helping a student. Some students need a little extra help with the mindset of eventually turning the power back over to the student. Some students are little more prepared to handle the pressure of taking responsibility of their education. Nevertheless, laziness as a teacher can be a good thing.

    1. @Bryan Lawson,
      I agree, there are many lazy learners because the teachers and assignments present themselves in a lazy, work out these 50 problems ways. I like the new Common Core standards that require that real world applications be applied to all of our teaching. We should also try our best to engage students in their own learning, by making them think! I love the, “what do you think.” Let’s put the learning back on these students and keep laziness out of it!
      It’s the “teach a man to fish,” theory as well.

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