I’ve been pretty frustrated as of late.
I have a few smart female students who were sweet, helpful, responsible, and just plain intelligent last year.
My school “strong recommends” that you tutor your high kids for CTY (and why not – it’s a Johns Hopkins-related program and our kids all qualify for amazing financial aid. If you get in, it boosts you through college, etc etc).
These aforementioned smart kids all mentioned that they didn’t want to go. Then other girls jumped into the same boat. CTY-prep which is excitement for other classes is like a punishment in my class. I’ve tried explaining to them, etc, and they said it was their parents who were unable to pick them up or didn’t want them to have extra homework. I have a huge issue with that because these girls are the smartest in my class. They spend the least time on this. They get it the best.
Things especially came to head because they talked to the principal about it (who’s new and doing the whole “understanding bit”), and the principal ultimately told them to speak with me. They didn’t. Now they have parents calling in. I’m doing the passive-aggressive, “Fine, don’t take the test, but if you qualify for the work, you should do it.”
When their parents called, I told the school admin that, “I’m implementing differentiated learning. Kids who are low get homework breaks, and kids who are high to accelerated materials.” Natch.
But honestly, I was just irritated. If the kids aren’t putting their effort in, why should I? Tomorrow, I’ll just go to school, and we’ll stick to the book. I’ll lecture from the book. I’ll give them their pre-test/post-tests. We’ll grade homework. Forget incentives. Forget the cajoling, the pep talks, the stern lectures. Just do what you do. You’ll graduate 8th grade. Hell, you’ll graduate 8th grade way better prepared than some other public education in Oakland. Then, my ire turned to their parents. I wanted to go into a spiel in the classroom tomorrow. “Tell your parents to talk to my face instead of hiding behind notes and threatening to take you out of school. How dare they? Do they spend their earliest hours prepping to teach you? Do they stay up late nights gauging what the best thing is? If they know so much, tell THEM to teach you. If this is just a daycare for them, then whatever. How dare they, just because they don’t like that I assigned you an extra packet, threaten to take you out?”
It was a threat. “What do I have to do, take her out?” … Wow lady. If you actually cared, then you would just take her out. Do it. I’d do it. If i were a parent and I didn’t like what the school was doing, I’d take my kid out, sure. But I wouldn’t use that as a threat.
But then, I need to check myself. Because that rant would be another passive-aggressive act on my part, because I have a sneaking suspicion that the main reason the parents are calling is because of their kids and my jabbing at their parents is really just a jab at them – they should feel bad that I’m blaming their parents. Why else would the parents call if the kids wasn’t dissatisfied or mad?
And why am I not just addressing this head on? WElll….I told myself that I intended to talk to each girl individually, but I keep running out of time. But I think today, as I got to reflect a little more (I have that time during my credentialing courses that I have to suffer through – which actually, I’m liking because it’s almost like a group therapy session!), I realized that a lot of it is fear. I am not good at confrontation, in general. And talking to them about it, and having them tell me to my face… I don’t know. I guess it’s just hard.
And I realized.. that I really just crave that validation. I don’t care if the whole world doesn’t acknowledge it. In fact, hearing people who don’t know a lick about teaching tell me that it’s a thankless job, or that I’m doing “good work” is rather irksome. It’s not like they know what they’re talking about. But, when it’s my kids.. who KNOW what I do, and how I prep (well to a point), and they still would rather just not.. I guess that bothers me a lot.
It’s interesting because I was joking how what my kids do/feel mean a lot to me. And yet, in the same sense, I feel like I treat them like.. input-output devices. The more I put in, the more I get. I can track it based on their test scores. I celebrate their gains. and yet, is my classroom an environment where mistakes are a learning opportunity? Today a girl was absent, and we have a HUGE attendance policy. There are group incentives. All the kids groaned, and in this way, we ensure every kid comes to school even if their parents don’t want to. We understand the power of peer-pressure and kid-pressure. But now that I think about it, come on. She. Was. Sick. I mean is she sort of lazy? And to me, feels sort of like this black hole where all I do is give and all she does is sort of slug around and never does her homework? Sure. But she’s a kid. She likes to help when she can. She can write. She has memories. And she was sick. Imagine the anxiety when she comes to class tomorrow and all the kids will be annoyed because their attendance record was broken. (And the only reason why we push attendance so much at our school is because in charter schools, that is how we get the monies). SAD!
I barely greet them in the day. I give them incentives for outward shows of behavior. Then, I get mad when I see how there doesn’t seem to exist an inner drive. But what am I really preaching with my teaching? I rarely pause. I rarely slow down. I’m constantly on the go, with this competitive drive to “be the best class”… but “best” in what sense? Academics? Discipline? What about empathy and perseverance? What about creativity and personal drive?
I think I can do little things to change my classroom environment. I think I can spend more time greeting kids personally. I think I can have little classroom meetings and pull-out sessions. I think I could do this if I took a few weekends out and just studied my textbooks to figure out how to TEACH instead of LECTURE and INPUT and expect OUTPUT. My kids can give me output, and on paper they can be stellar… but what sort of education is this, by the end of 8th grade? What do I want them to have?
I watch videos of “Best practices” and I see the drills and procedures. Then I see other videos of inquiry-based learning or collaborative class projects (which Common Core is thankfully forcing most of us to get into)… and I feel saddened that although my classroom procedures are down pat, and my kids have stability… what kind of education is this?
On a side note: I really don’t want to tutor for CTY if only like.. 2 kids want to… but if really, only 2 kids wanted to, I would tutor them. In the same sense though, I guess for me, it just digs at my pride that my kids are the only ones. And I guess the whole irritation with this whole thing is everyone kept going behind my back, and I felt like the “bad cop”.. and in this situation, I sort of missed my old principal’s way of dealing with things in the whole no-bullsh*t kind of way. And.. uh, I got all mad, because I just don’t like it when kids “get lazy.” Just DO it. you whiners.
Okay calm down. Where did your reflection just go?