In the last ten years or so of my high school teaching career, the big push was group work. It seemed we were always rearranging the desk to form foursomes, twosomes, whenever we could. This also meant strategic planning beyond the actual lesson itself: If I let kids choose their groups, all the doofuses would sit together so they wouldn’t have to work, all the achievers would sit together so they could be sure of a good grade. If I chose the groups, I’d have to be careful so one kid didn’t do the work of the other three, or that I didn’t put too many cut-ups together, or that an outcast didn’t sit with a mean kid. And of course, we needed to structure the assignment so there was enough – of value – for everyone to do.
It always made me wonder what these kids would do when they got out into the world and were solely responsible for what they produced.
Yesterday, I realized we’ve gone full-circle, thanks to Covid and distance learning. For a year and more, kids have been sequestered at home, learning on their own with just a distant teacher checking in.
Now, even if kids are back in school physically, I imagine group work – sitting together, breathing on each other – still isn’t part of the teaching plan.