Administrators are required to make a certain number of classroom observations throughout the year (in my school, at least). As I’m the freshest meat in the deli (terrible analogy, but let’s roll with it), I’m an obvious target for these observations. These past two weeks or so, I’ve been getting observed a lot. I don’t mind at all, but I keep getting the same divergent remarks from these observations:
- I’m actually a pretty decent teacher. The principal said he learned a few things from my lesson on Shakespearean sonnets, and another administrator with an English background went out of her way to commend me on my lesson about speakers in poetry (I use Ludacris, Lupe Fiasco, and Rilo Kily songs–I’m just lucky they didn’t fire me around “I got my twin glock .40’s cocked back”).
- I’m a terrible classroom manager. Some of these kids never got the memo that two adults in the classroom means “shut up.” I actually had to ask a student twice to be quiet while I was talking while the dang principal of the school(!) sat mere desks away.
Today actually had a few successes, however. I had to write up a student yesterday for some rather egregious disrespect. The poor girl was called up to the office today during my class, and her friends asked me if I had written her up. I didn’t say anything, but their conversation revolved more around a recognition of her behavior rather than how much of a jerk I am. It’s not much, but I’m calling it progress, folks.
By the way, I’ve recently (read: 20 minutes ago) found out about the crazy awesome band Vampire Weekend. They’re highly recommended, especially for these long paper-grading nights.
I just watched Dr. Tim Tyson, former principal of Mabry Middle School, give a keynote address on using technology in the schools to provide a more relevant, interesting curriculum for students. He brings up the idea of meaningfulness, and it’s definitely a subject worth pondering when you’re responsible for 130 people’s ability to read and write.
Tyson’s all about using podcasts and digital filmmaking in the classroom so students are more involved in their learning. I couldn’t agree more, but even he admits that the real issue is not technology, but meaningfulness. And not just meaningfulness in the when-will-I-ever-need-to-know-this sense, but more along the lines of accepting that these students in the classroom have value as human beings, and they can and should contribute to society in some way. You don’t become a citizen when you graduate high school–you’re a citizen as soon as you’re born. It’s high time these students started, um, citizening.
Now, should I take my fifty minutes a day to pick trash up along the highway? Of course not, but there are plenty of project-based assignments I could work out that could relate to English just as effectively as the Shakespearean sonnets I’m throwing at them now.
The technology enters into this meaningfulness as the internet (I’m done capitalizing it, aren’t you? Somebody tell Microsoft) allows global access to anything a student creates. Tyson asks his students to consider what they have to say that’s so important the whole world needs to hear it. It’s a lofty goal for his middle schoolers–and it would certainly be for my students, too–but getting involved in the world takes a lot of hard work. It’s time these kids figured that out.
It’s been a particularly shitty week in all sorts of ways. Everything decided to bite me in the butt all at once: grad school, work, the bank account, the blood coming out of my dog’s ass. Things were looking bad in all sorts of ways.
Either my kids were especially wiry this week, or my patience was just much lower than usual, but I found myself faced with all sorts of problems: throwing stuff each other, talking over me, just your general off-task just-try-and–teach-me attitudes.
In one particularly difficult class, I did what every professor and textbook had warned me never to do: I punished the whole class for a few students’ misdeeds.
After weeks of consistent disrespect and a generally unproductive classroom, I made a deal with the kids that they could avoid a seating chart by getting all of the day’s work done. Of course, most students completed the assignment while four or five others decided their time could be better spent throwing candy and pennies across the room at each other, laughing at me whenever I turned around just in time to not see exactly who threw it.
Sick of dealing with teenager crap, I just threw them all in a seating chart in a last ditch effort to show them what’s what. Of course, everyone immediately recognized the admitted injustice of it all. A couple students had to be written up for their reactions, and the others look pretty disgusted with me, too, complaining that they “can’t learn in this class anymore” and that they’re “done trying to be my friend.”
I know it’s not my job to be their friend. Their learning something in the class absolutely gets to sit shotgun while being chummy sits in the backseat, but I also see it as equally problematic when everyone in the classroom seems to sincerely hate me. I’m completely at a loss as to what I should do other than take in the weekend and reflect on what an idiot I can be.