To the Editor:
Stanley Pogrow deserves praise for seeking new instructional strategies to engage students in high-poverty urban middle and high schools, such as those he outlines in his online Commentary “Boredom in Class? Try ‘Outrageous’ Instruction” (July 13, 2009). But it’s unlikely that the kind of lessons he describes could be repeated in the typical five-classes-a-day schedule that exists in most public schools in this country. That’s because the energy required to do so would be overwhelming.
Outrageous lessons as Mr. Pogrow defines them are tantamount to stage productions. There’s good reason matinees and evening performances are not daily. They simply are too draining physically and emotionally on actors. Why would Mr. Pogrow expect that teachers would be any different? After all, they would be on center stage each period of the day. The student-teachers whom he supervised no doubt were successful, but their schedules probably were not typical of licensed teachers on the school’s payroll.
Mr. Pogrow maintains that if every teacher in a school taught two such lessons a year, it would have a revitalizing effect on learning. Perhaps so. But what happens when the outrageous performances are not repeated to the same group of students? Will they regress to their former state of ennui? Unless students are intrinsically engaged in the material taught, once the novelty of outrageous instruction wears off, they are likely to regress.
Los Angeles, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the August 12, 2009 edition of Education Week as ‘Outrageous’ Teaching Drains Teachers’ Energy