We were very different from the students we teach, it is a matter of fact, but pray, when I say different I don’t mean better, just different. Making an effort to understand that assumption is, my opinion, essential, if we do aim at being of any help to the generations we are supposed to form. This epiphany came across my mind after the sixth school board meeting few weeks ago and after hearing for the sixth time in a row the same things: teachers complaining that their students are not able to develop any learning strategy different from memorizing useless notions which are usually soon forgotten and students complaining on the amount of homework and above all on the fact that they don’t understand what we actually want, that we should feel satisfied and praise them for the (pointless) effort they produce. At the end of these meeting each party goes home fully convinced to be on the right side of the question and the next day everything starts afresh.

Since I would like to try and work on bridging this gap between we teachers and our students, I will focus on what I consider the two most striking generational differences on which to ponder and a humble suggestion in the end. So, difference number one is: parents’ behaviour. Really, I do not understand. Whenever I have to attend P/T conferences, there is one common issue: since teachers give too much homework, parents feel somehow compelled to help their children do their homework  – if we are lucky – or they do it in their place. I’m wondering, this must be the reason why I didn’t have children, as, if after a day at work, you have to cook or look after the house and family and besides, there are your children’s homework waiting for you, well, it is hell. The parents of my generation never thought about doing our homework, for many reasons, but first of all because it was our duty and responsibility, however, they did check whether we had done what had been assigned, I can assure you and I have vivid memories about it and….bruises.

The second difference, of course, concerns the media. Being digital natives means not only that you have grown up online spending a lot of time on various social media, but also that you have developed the attitude of getting to information very fast and superficially at the same time. Messages must be simple, short, catchy  and whatever requires thought, pondered analysis is pushed aside as “démodé”. If this is the scenario, is there a solution?

Yes, there is. Learning proficiently is like making your own fix net of information and the new generations should actually have the effective digital native attitude, rather than the old Sisyphus one. Sisyphus was the king of Corinth who was punished in Hades by having repeatedly to roll a huge stone up a hill only to have it roll down again as soon as he had brought it to the summit, and this is exactly the 3 step learning strategy of most of my students have developed: study/memorize,forget,start afresh. That is why they always assume it is too much homework, because they keep on studying the same things they had forgotten, which, however, keep on surfacing even when they deal with apparently different topics.

The correct approach when you study is: copy, edit, paste. An example: if it took an entire hour to study 3 pages about the Magna Carta, I said study, not memorize, when you deal with the Petition of Rights, you’ll have just to copy the concept, edit it with the new protagonists and paste it. It will take 45 minutes this time. Furthemore, if your history teacher wishes to assign you homework on the English civil war, you already know the basic events and you’ll have just to do a little editing, hence 15/30 minutes will be enough to accomplish your task. If you studied the characteristics of English Romanticism and studied some poems, it should be quite natural to find the same issues when you study the Italian poet Leopardi, for example. In this way boredom and a great waste of time would be avoided. Homework is not your enemy, as all the time you spend on training in one of the sports you practice is not your enemy if you have goals. Working pointlessly and with no passion, that is your enemy.



47 thoughts on “Copy,Edit,Paste.

  1. During my teaching days I loved to ask the questions that hit the core. Students have a way of giving back what we unknowingly expect. For instance, are students focusing on memorizing because instruction and homework reinforce that notion? … Nonetheless, cheers to your efforts in trying to break the pattern!!!

    • We teachers are imperfect human beings, hence, I don’t want to put the blame on students and parents only, we have our share, of course . As far as I can see, too often we do not work as a team sharing goals, methods and this is a fault. And ,as you well said, I suspect that if students keep on memorizing, it is not only because it is the simplest way they know to achieve their goal, but also because of the kind of instruction or homework we assign.

      • Right with you … And we (the educational system) have taught them that.

  2. Very well said Mrs. Tink. This new generation…..well, I think we are going to hell if they take the power of the world, not all the kids are like what you put as examples I imagine, but quite a lot. You did give them a little kick in the butt, I liked that.

      • I should become a teacher just to smak those kids,the “milleniums”, I’m actually smiling right now thinking about it.
        Me-Do he homework!
        Me-smack on the face as my mother did to me and quickly I did the homework

      • I hope you’re being sarcastic, or at least deliberately provocative for effect. I don’t agree with violence as a way of inculcating good habits and attitudes, and I certainly wouldn’t think it appropriate to smile just thinking about being violent to students in our care.

      • I was being just a bit sarcastic, but I do remember in the old times when there wasn’t so much polictal correctness BS, that I would get a smack from my mother if I was roudy and doing bad while she smoked her cigarette and through all the smoke in my face, I turned out good.
        Just saying, you are being a little to much sensitive about the comment. Plus getting a smack on the but or face it’s not abuse, it’s a warning.
        So that “violence” you say…. I just think is over the top. If you hit the kid with a hose 50 times or just only 1 then we can agree that is violence, but a little smack….nope.

      • See? Now we have to invite you to dinner, a good stake, and if you tell me you are vegetarian then I’ll throw myself out the window…….head first.

  3. So you are actually talking about students needing to learn skills – transferable ones – rather than gobbets of information which they can regurgitate. The trouble is, as you realise, the instant accessibility of certain kinds of information, particularly factual, militates against the development of skills, which is harder and takes more time. I found myself, in my latter years of teaching, having to be much more upfront with my classes about the fact that skills were transferable, and perhaps with some success as they realised what I was aiming at. Keeping the students fully in the loop of everything I was doing was a useful tactic. But yes, times are very different now…

    • It is still a very useful tactic. It is no longer enough to say, we are going to deal with this or that topic, that is all. I can well say that whenever we manage to make them aware of what we aim at, they are always more involved and productive.

  4. Certainly, modern students are very different from the students our parents and teachers were. I am a student today, so I can affirm and confirm we can easily get, although we aren’t looking for it, any kind of piece of information, at every second. However, being digital natives means a lot of different things: we are growing in a society full of distractions, full of mess for what concerns news and facts, in which we have a life with a more frenetic rhythm (compared with a few years ago). Therefore, people have to make the best of circumstances, have to adapt themselves to the new world. In my opinion this is necessary also (maybe even more) out of the school, but we are talking about education, students and teachers. I think we are in the core of a real revolution, so we have to change our uses, as students and as teachers. Students have the big responsibility of adapt themselves and maybe they have the guilt of not doing this quite quickly, while teachers shouldn’t try to teach with the same method they had adopted some years ago. That’s to act for the future world good. We aren’t less brillant than the previous students, we are not lazier, we just need a different method because we are of a very different age from yours: we have to find it with the help of our teachers. We don’t need less homework and people shouldn’t demand less from us. For what concerns parents, I think this mess will disappear with the solving of the teaching/learnig problem, maybe this is a consequence of the digital age too… or maybe there was something wrong also in the previous generation of parents and students, and that’s why there are such parents today!

  5. I think that anybody can do whatever he believes right for himself. Personally, if I can learn everything studying by heart, I will do it, but I’m not so lucky. About the parents’ problem, in my opinion they are free to help their son/daughter if he/she has any kind of problem. Obviously do not think thay should do their children’s homework. Anyway, I don’t study too much because I am too lazy but I’m sure that it will be useful.

    • Well, anybody is free to choose the method he likes the most as long as it works and trust me, you’ll have to upgrade it many times in your life. What will it be useful? Being lazy?? 😏

  6. When I myself was a school student I had little concept about how different subject areas related to each other. Small wonder, really, as any cross-curricular learning one did at primary school was obliterated by the secondary school timetable with its discrete subjects taught by dedicated specialists.

    When I became a teacher my eyes were opened by a Head Teacher who opined that you only needed to be taught one subject — Music (my subject!) — to explore many different disciplines such as History, Geography, Maths, Modern Foreign Languages and Physics, plus social skills such as co-operation, negotiation, communication and coordination (to name just a few).

    This is what so many of the trends in modern education forego, the sense of and belief in the interconnectedness of things. Thus, one essay should inform another, even if the topic is different; analogy and metaphor in fact allow one to think creatively and range more widely than the narrow rigid confines demanded by an education system too much predicated on rote-learning and the simplistic accumulation of facts unrelated to each other.

    • Your Head Teacher was great, Chris. However, my concern about the development of useful learning strategies for my students regards particularly the exam they have to face at the end of their high school years, the so called “esame di maturità” , which is all about the interconnection of disciplines, all disciplines.Memorization cannot work in this case, even if they wish to. 🙆

      • I had to look up ‘esame di maturità’, Stefy, which looks to be not quite the equivalent of Advanced Level in the UK and more like the old matriculation certificate my parents’ generation did. In the 60s I took two papers — a so-called General Paper and Use of English — which seem to have represented a remnant of that matriculation process in requiring a more mature response to generalised questions in a wide range of topics. And you’re right, they weren’t about memorising, they were about thinking and giving considered answers.

    • Yes, yes, yes – absolutely. Being from a couple of generations earlier than today’s students, one of the things I notice is that the narrow rigid confines you refer to allow much better marketing of study and knowledge, and allow for attempts to mark and assess by machine, too. There’s a lot of manipulation going on because there’s a great deal of money now to be made from so many aspects of the ‘student experience’ – certainly here in England, anyway…

    • “Esame di maturità” is different from A levels. It is , actually , a nightmarish ” rite of passage” . I am going to tell you how it works psychologically first. Even you have university degrees, phd and you achieved whatever you wanted in life, every now and then the memory of that exam surfaces usually in the form a distressful dream. We have lots of movies on this subject. Even if it has changed in years the impact remains the same.
      What is it about? The students must be examined in all the disciplines ( both oral and written form) by a board of 7 teachers (4 out 7 are total strangers to them).
      My recurrent dream is that I forgot to be examined in Science and I have to take the entire exam again.😱

      • Poor Stefy, how horrible for you. I wouldn’t wish a nightmare like this on my worst enemy. Well, maybe just the leaders of certain countries, who will be nameless.

  7. I think that everybody must find a learning method with which one can study efficently.Not only with the “copy,edit,paste” method but,for example,even watching some videos on internet related to the argument to study.Personally I didn’t study so much but I survived the 1º and 2º years with my method :).

  8. I believe every student has to find his own method of study, which should allow him to learn quicly and remember even after some time. About parents’ help I think that every student should do his homework without the help of parents because, when we grow up, there will not always be someone to help us in difficult times. I think that can help a student make a list of their homework before starting to study and try to respect it within a limited time, obviously this is possibile only with a good method of study and without distraction like the smart phone.

  9. In my opinion a useful and personal study-method is hard to get, you have to build it in the time with dedication. We shouldn’t understimate the effort required.

  10. I don’t think parents should do students’ homework beacuse I think that like the most of t my classmates, even if I don’ t have good grades I prefer to go to school without homework than let my parents do it. I guess I didn’t understand the paragraph about social media. However , in my opinion, social media and many web sites are useful but surely many students don’t use them correctly. Students should find their own study method, I memorize only the paragraphs or the subject that I don’t find easy (English).

  11. Everyone has his method to study, in my opinion memorizing things is more useful than other method about school performance. For what concerns parents, everyone should do his homework alone but a help is not the end of the world

  12. I think every student has his method of study and his educational needs. There are students who need more time and exercises to understand the topics and students who understand the lessons immediately and for this reason each student must be helped in a different way by their teacher. In addition to this type of needs every child may have various needs, for example if he practices high level sports he will certainly have less time and less energy to devote to the study but according to many people and also in my opinion the school remains the priority of every boy.

    • I used to practice a lot of sport myself at your age 🏊‍♀️, and I learnt to manage the time I had left for stydying better. That was a great lesson indeed.

  13. In my opinion we have to improve our study method but this doesn’t mean that we don’t have one. I don’t think this can happen in a day or in a short time with the excuse that we are in the third year , so we have to improve our method but for me it’s hard with a large amount of homework to do almost every day.

    • I never said you don’t have it, I said to consider that it might be wrong. The third high school year requires a little upgrading in methodology. It cannot be otherwise since new disciplines are introduced and many of the old ones aim at different goals. You will realize that you have developed a better methon, when you need to study less .🙋

  14. I think that our methods are very different from the methods of our parents.I think our method of study is simplified by Internet. Thanks to internet we can search information very fast.This is the method of study of this period and I think that every period has its methods and so probably in future it will change again.

    • Internet is a tool and NOT a method and I can assure you that you are not even able to use it properly , since you don’t go any further than Wikipedia page. That is why it is fast as you say. Very fast indeed.

  15. I think that even to reason takes time, so it could not be a quick way to study, but it is of course more useful than learning by heart. It’s hard to develop a methodology and it is even harder to change the one you already have, but it is not impossible. I don’t think that in the past things were so different because in some subjects you only have one way to study: read and repeat. On the other I think that the required skills are different today but the problem could be the fact that we don’t always understand what we are asked for. Anyway we can work on it and develope the required skills. For what concerns parents’ help, I don’t think this is very common. Today very often both parents work and don’t have time to spend with our homework or at least I can say my parents never did it. I agree with the fact that finding a methodology is very important, but I still think that studying in a high school is difficult and you have to spend a lot of time doing it in the afternoon, even if you’re good and you found a method.

    • You realize that you need to change or upgrade your method when either you do not achieve your goals ( low grades , for example) or it takes too long to do your homework. You need the right method to work less and better.

  16. The difficulty of “bridging the gap” you mentioned, lies in the differences between students and teachers. They both belong to different ages and this means a lot. First of all nowadays students (including me) are sons and daughters of a Digital World and that involves, as it has already been said by my dear friend Flavia, that for us it’s very easy to get any kind of information, indifferently from place and time (till web have WiFi). Besides, with all the possibilities that we can get today we are a lot more distracted and, in a certain way, confused, because we want to do so many things and then we end up doing them wrong or not as good we could. Personally I have so many interests that I can’t even do the half of them, and those I do, I don’t enjoy them as I’d like. But do not misunderstand me, because I don’t despise the Digital Age, I just think of It as a doble-edged blade, with disadvantages, like those listed above, and advantages that must be used as supplement in school. Regarding the parental problem I totally agree with you: apart from being quite a nuisance, helping children with their homework is far more harmful than anything else. Especially when they are very young, because It is in the age that kids are brought to relate with study for the First time. But more important he/She empowers him/herself because he’s obliged to rely only on his forces; and what time is better to do so than primary School where, let’s be honest, grades are not that important. On the other hand I think that this custom of modern parents is generated by the eccessive rigidity of the parents of our parents: we passed from an extreme to the other. For the “Sisyphus” and “no passion” points, I doubt that 20,30 or 40 years ago it was much different. Not for this reason it shouldn’t be resolved. Indeed the solution is quite handy: students and teachers have to communicate, conscious of the differences between them, and together find a new valid and improved method of studying.

  17. I think everyone should have his own method of study and if it was efficient until today it would be enough just to develop it and adapt it to the difficoult, not to change it completely and then start again from 0.
    I do not think parents have to do their children’s homework but if sometimes they help them I do not think there’s anything wrong.

  18. In my opinion, studying today is very different from yesterday’s study, because not only have programs, methods and laws changed on teaching. The customs and needs of society have changed. Today the time has become an obstacle, as living obsessed by routine, we lost that time that perhaps allowed us, to get interested in studying. today the greatest attention we give to how to appear, and not to focus on developing a personal culture, that would make us better maybe. I find that in this the school’s defect, because it doesn’t help the formation of an individual personality, because it’s too focused to achieve a common goal without valuing the individual and different qualities that each of us possesses. As our time spent on school is much less, so too is the time that school can now dedicate to us.

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