This true story attempts to challenge the pervasive myth in Israel that verbal, outgoing students understand more than those who are quiet.
Copyright © 2017
Welcome to Israel.
Israelis love talking. Israelis love winning an argument.
Welcome to a society of verbally-dominant, good-natured extroverts.
Members of Parliament love to shout out-of-turn when they disagree. There’s an unwritten rule here that if you don’t voice your opinion openly, then it means that you agree.
So even when such politicians are removed from a session for shouting out-of-turn, they win points for being smart.
There is little practice here of gentlemanly debate or responding quietly to a well-expressed argument.
I listen to a morning radio talk-show. The two hosts are arguing about some important issue.
The woman host irritates my ears with a domineering, buck-toothed (I would swear), nasal whine. The male host verbally bobs up and down like a goose. He unsuccessfully attempts to express his arguments and grab his share of the seeds. She bumps him mercilessly with her honking quacks.
She talks more and louder, wins the argument and gets all the seeds. And radio listeners put up with this.
So, not surprisingly, Israeli teachers find it reasonable to routinely give 10% of a grade for “Class Participation” – shorthand for shouting out answers.
Not a hand but an index finger shoots up, while the student unceremoniously yells, “Teacher! Teacher! Me!! Me!! I have something to say!!”
“Yes, Yoram, do you know the answer to my question?”
“No, I don’t know, but I’m raising my finger! I’m participating! I’m shouting out something, just like on TV! I’m smart! I win!’
Yoram demonstrates some interest and occasional understanding, so the teacher gives him extra points for “Class Participation”.
And then there are my own children, some of whom are quiet introverts.
Each year teachers at various grades used to admonish us about our non-participating offspring.
“What’s the matter with your daughter? She rarely participates in class discussions”.
I ask her, “Does she show interest? Does she understand? Does she do well on tests? Aren’t those the important things?”
“Well I suppose they are”, she says, “but she doesn’t participate. During class, I have no idea if she’s interested or if she understands. I hold the belief that students who show what they know, understand the material better. So I can’t give her points for Class Participation.”
In Israel, the introverts eat it.
Well, I refuse to embrace the pervasive myth that quiet students by definition don’t understand.
As an instructor at an Israeli academic teachers’ college, I suppress the notion that more participation necessarily means more understanding.
I work hard at nourishing my belief that many introverts do have deep understanding and interest in a subject but simply don’t have a need to share this in class.
Based on my enlightened position about introverts, in my courses I insist on going from Theory to Practice: I refuse to give points for Class Participation.
Several years ago, I had a particularly quiet student, Rebecca.
Both semesters, we smiled and greeted each other warmly.
During the year-long course, she just sat quietly and didn’t participate, even once.
The end of the year arrived, and I was proud to be the ENLIGHTENED instructor, the advocate for quiet introverts, the lecturer who proudly and nobly does not give points for Class Participation, the teacher who preaches that we can’t equate lack of participation with lack of understanding.
The end of the year arrived.
I corrected all of the exams which were numbered for fair grading.
When I entered the grades according to name, I was undeniably stunned that Rebecca got the highest grade on my final exam.
I rarely admit my reaction in public.
I suppose that embracing a new theory, changing one’s practice and dismantling an entrenched belief are three separate entities.
I deserve some points for the first two.
I’m still working on the third.
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