Announcement: We still have a few spots open at the Blogger Roundtable on Thursday.
It's at 6:30 in Orem and the focus is photography.
We will be learning how to take pictures, edit pictures, how to use photos to grow our blogs, etc.
It's definitely for newbies so don't feel intimidated!
It's $10, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested!
I had an interesting chat with a student the other day. I really love this kid. He is sweet and adorable and shows up to class every dang day. He makes these awkward yet hilarious jokes and the whole class laughs with him because he nails the humor and has this quirky, odd confidence that we can't get enough of.
This student has never passed my class. But he participates, he does work, he delights us with his charisma, he just can't get to that 60%.
At the end of second quarter he stopped trying. While the rest of the class was working on their research paper, he just stared blankly at his computer. Or he put his head down and took a nap. I would tap him or ask him how his paper was going or what I could do to help him. One afternoon when he came after school to get his cell phone I had taken from him (punishment for using it in class without permission) I told him how much I wanted him to pass second quarter and that I believed he could. We wrote a "contract" together and if he could pass the class he would get a "key card" that my school gives out- an entry in a drawing for a car and a $25 gift certificate to one of many local restaurants and stores. He only seemed half interested in the deal, and as our plan rolled out, he really never gave it an honest try. He didn't put in any extra effort, and he failed second quarter.
Earlier this week I saw him messing around in class while all the other students were working on a group project. I really want this boy to pass, but at the same time was a bit tired of pushing and prodding and not receiving any effort back. So I asked him, "Do you have any desire to pass this class? If there is even a small part of you that wants it and is willing to work for it, then I will help you. But if you have decided you are not going to pass the class then just tell me and I will stop bothering you."
He was confused. "You'll let me do nothing?"
"If that's what you want, yes."
"That's what I want."
"You sure? You don't want to pass the class?"
"Ok. You're free to do what you want then, just don't disturb the other students from learning."
And he promptly put his headphones in, laid his head on the desk, and fell asleep.
When I went into teaching I thought I would save all the children. I had grand dreams of Dead Poet's Society and Freedom Writers and I wanted to be that teacher that made that difference. The Oh Captain, My Captain! I wanted to be the one that was there for the struggling students when no one else was. I wanted to be the teacher that inspired the reluctant reader, that made the students work hard and discover how smart they were and how capable they were. I wanted to be the teacher that shouted from the desktops "In my classroom, failure is not an option!"
Well, guess what. I just gave a student the option to fail. And he took it.
It took about a year of teaching before it dawned on me that I did not, actually, have endless amount of energy. I discovered I had x amount of energy, and I could only do x amount of things for my students. What they need is someone with boundless energy, limitless time, and that do and be everything for their students. I am not this teacher. No teacher is, in fact. It almost makes me kind of mad at Hollywood for creating these perfect teacher movies or at the university I graduated from for making me think I would save the world, or I don't know, maybe at myself for being young and naive and thinking that I could (or should) rescue all failing teenagers. I can't.
Once I realized I only had a certain amount of energy to give to my students, I started to be a little more selective with where I was putting that energy. My first year of teaching I spent 80% of my energy on 20% of my students- the students who would fail no matter what I did, the students who couldn't care less, the students who had severe discipline and behavior problems or barely scraped by. I spent so much energy on that 20% that I ignored the other 80% of my students- the kids who loved learning, the kids who wanted to please me, the kids who actual read the assigned chapters for crying out loud. They were getting the shaft while I tried in vain to reach students who refused to be reached.
It isn't easy to let that 20% go. In many ways I feel like I'm failing my students when I do this. (Both literally and figuratively.) I still don't have it all quite figured out in my head yet. But I know I can't reach every student. I know some kids are going to enter my class hating to read and they are going to leave my class hating to read. Some students will never like me. Some students will think my rules are stupid and my punishments unfair and I will never earn their respect. Some students will leave my class and forget about me completely, holding no lasting memories of any of the work I put in to making that class fun or interesting or meaningful for them.
I don't exactly know why I'm telling you this except for that maybe I am trying to give myself permission to let go of the 20. I don't feel one hundred percent great about letting my students down, but at the same time I know that to keep my own sanity, to avoid burn out, and to continue and enjoy teaching for years to come that I have to put limits on what I expect myself to do and accomplish in the classroom. They are my students and I love them, but at the end of the day, it is my job. My family will always come first, my religion will come first, my own selfish pursuits and desires may even come first. (One of my pet peeves with Freedom Writers is that she essentially sacrifices her marriage for her students. I hate that that idea is even suggested as a possibility for teachers... no teacher should ever be encouraged to sacrifice her family in the name of 17 year olds and a $35,000 paycheck.)
In the end, I hope this makes me a better teacher. It might not. But I like to think that while I may lose that 20%, I can give more to the wanting 80%. I can devote more of my energy, time and love to the students who really need it and want it. Believe it or not, there are teenagers out there who love learning, who are genuinely interested in what Jay Gatsby's tragic flaw is, who crave the love and attention of their teachers.
So I'm going to give it to them.