Thursday, February 17, 2011

A day in the Doldrums

Considering men of consequence  
      on occasion
also sat around scratching metaphorical balls,
I'm instilled with confidence that 
                                                I, too 
may soon be up to something great.

Unfortunately my current gumption is something like
overstretched taffy.
I'll sit here with goggle eyes fixed to a                     on
                                                                            fly        the 
bored out of my stagnating gourd,
droopy lizard eyes hanging
I seem to have hired an overcooked carrot to impersonate my body.


When myself is ready to leave February
I hope it to have the vigor to take on my 
        spring cleaning.
Pits of sewage have long needed to be raked from
                                            my conceptual gutters.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Education takes a piss

One of the other JHS teachers asked me if a class of second graders was as obnoxious for all of the teachers, or if she was getting special treatment.
                        “…............deeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrr....” My honest opinion....
Well, education is pissing all over the hopes and dreams of intelligent, creative and wonderful children? I probably can't say that.
                                                                        ...........I began grumbling about how the education system has become an archaic institution... 
                       “Children are over-stimulated at home, and conversely, over-drugged at school to make sure they can sit still for 6 hours. 21st century children do not belong in 19th century schools. Furthermore, no child has ever belonged in such a repressive environment.”
                                                                                                    ...she was looking at me blankly.
                                                                                                    This is an argument for another day.
Abort mission!
                      “...sorry, I mean, no, you're fine.”

I felt I had dropped the ball on putting in a good word for my kids. I hated the shit out of school when I was their age and wished I had given the teacher some advice she could actually use. She didn't need to hear about crumbling pillars, she needed to hear what she could do to improve. 

So, I wrote her this letter;

Ms. [              ],
I was unable to give you proper feedback when you asked me about a 2年 class a few weeks ago. In case you were still hoping for some advice, I thought I would share my thoughts with you. It's always nice to know other people feel the same way.

Some days, your students will be completely unreceptive and you will feel like this;

...which is totally normal.
An important thing to remember, though, is that students are equally as frustrated as teachers. Unfortunately, they are too young to articulate their frustration, so they just misbehave.

"Excuse me teacher, I don't quite understand.                     "I hate English! I hate you! Blah blah
Could you please explain that again?"                                 blabbity blaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!"

What feels like bad behavior may be a student's way of expressing that his/her needs are not being met. Children need to feel loved and empowered in order to succeed. That will not happen unless a few things are first established (in my experience).

Mutual respect – a teacher must take it, and give it

Taking it
*  I won't talk over a noisy class. It sends the message that it's ok to talk while the teacher is talking. It's not. I wait for quiet.
*  I don't ignore bad behavior (usually). Discipline shows that you haven't given up on a student because you think he/she is capable of better behavior.
*  Follow-through. I expect students to do as they're told. If they don't, I will ask them to correct themselves. If they don't, I will wait until they do as they are told. So will the rest of the class.

Giving it
*  Don't assume a student is 'bad'. They know when you have given up on them.
*  Praise good behavior, scold bad behavior – both are signs of respect.
*  When a student is misbehaving, ask 'do you understand?' Even if the answer is 'yes', explain again and help them work through a problem or two (individually). Asking 'do you understand?' shows the student you know that he/she doesn't, but doesn't imply that they have done something wrong. Helping him/her shows that you aren't going away until they demonstrate their capability.

Accessibility & FUN

Students will give up if they feel that the material is
a. too difficult
b. too easy
c. irrelevant/ boring

Drilling is important, but should never be the focus of the lesson. Students want to express themselves and be challenged. After they get the basic idea of a target structure, allow them to use it in a useful or interesting way. They need to know WHY they are learning something.

Anyway, those are a few things I've noticed about my tough classes. Hopefully it's a little useful. Most importantly, never give up on yourself or them. You are a good teacher, and they are good students. It just takes a hell of a lot of patience from you and from them.

Enjoy your vacation, see you next year!