The English Teacher

October 23, 2006, 8:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I failed.


About Face
October 22, 2006, 7:47 pm
Filed under: Daily Life, Future

I need to change my attitude in regards to my students.  I spend a lot of my time complaining about how ungrateful and awful these kids are and not enough time praising them for their moments of brilliance.  Admittedly, the latter has been few and far between, but these are still young kids.  I shouldn’t be so hard on them.

My goal for this week:  Be nicer to the kids.  Less threats and guilt trips (Why am I the only one who cares whether or not you will graduate from high school?).  More praise and encouragement.  But to be realistic, I’m still going to allow myself some leeway because I know that my students are going to behave in ways that will bring more E’s than A’s.  I will say at least one nice thing to each class each day.  I will encourage all of my classes to aim high and work towards getting into college (or technical school).  I will actively inspire these kids to want to achieve their dreams instead of negatively grumbling that they will never meet their goals with the work they’re turning in.  Wish me luck.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow

–Langston Hughes

One Child Left Behind
October 13, 2006, 7:48 pm
Filed under: Daily Life

I think that new teachers, like myself, tend to have very idealistic pictures of what teaching is going to be like.  When I first got into this profession, I was excited and ready to make a difference in the lives of these young minds.  However, I don’t know if it’s me, this generation of students, or merely the student population at my school, but my ardor has cooled considerably.  It’s depressing that I’m the only one who is concerned about whether or not a student is going to pass the first quarter of his freshman year.  Shouldn’t it be the student who is more interested in that information?

The other day, I had a particularly recalcitrant student who was being a, for the lack of a better word, a complete jackass.  He was doing the work that assigned him–summarizing three articles he had read–but he was doing it in a way that was completely impractical for him to write and for me to read.  Basically, he wrote the whole thing out backwards with the first word in the lower right corner.  I told him I didn’t have the time to read something like that and asked him to rewrite it properly.  My aide had scanned through it and said that it was a good summary and also suggested he rewrite it.  There was plenty of time left in class, but he chose not to.  Instead, he sat and doodled the entire time.  When I told him if he would prefer failing, he just nodded and sullenly sat at his desk.  I even threatened to call his mom and he exploded and said, “I don’t care!  She’s already been called 20 million times!”

So, what do I do with this student?  I had no choice but to leave him and let him fail.  I have other students in the class who want to do well and were working diligently at their assigned task.  Is it fair for me to neglect them in order to cajole and threaten one student who obviously did not want to be in the class?  Should I have remained at the side of the student who, in his own words, wanted to drop out of school?  In my mind, the choice was clear.  Though he may be a confused adolescent, he had made his decision.  He wanted to fail.  From that moment on, my main responsibility shifted to the other students.  It may be cold, but I am willing to sacrifice one student in order to ensure the success of the rest. 

Fortunately, the student returned the next day and asked how he could bring his grades up.  This was a bit of a shock, but sometime between the two days, something had happened that had motivated him.  I just hope that he can maintain this and succeed.  However, if the situation ever arises when he decides that he won’t, not can’t, do the work, then I am going to lead the other students on and leave him behind.