I remember when students didn't talk to me. I would teach until my throat ached...explaining how to determine rhyme scheme and how to write in iambic pentameter, but they wouldn't say a word - to me. Oh, they would talk plenty to each other about all things teenager. But I was just Charlie Brown's teacher waa-waa-waa-ing in front of the room.
Now it seems that someone has directed middle school students to talk to their teachers. "Stand up for yourself!" someone said. "Express your opinions!" said another. "Argue if you have to!" was thrown in, too. So this is how I spend my days....explaining, justifying, and reasoning...to preteens who still sleep with stuffed animals.
Here's how my class went this morning:
"Did you bring us any candy for Valentine's Day? Why not? It's only three days away. And we've been good, and when we're good you have to give us something."
My next class delivered all of my favorite expressions - they're my favorite because I have a quick comeback.
Student - "That's not fair."
Me - "Fair is a weather condition and an event that comes to the county in the fall."
Student - "This is boring."
Me - "I'm not here to entertain you; I'm here to educate you."
...which brings me to my problem today. Teachers have done such a good job of making learning fun, that the little blackmailers refuse to work if it isn't. Here's my afternoon with Jesse:
First of all, let me say...I thought the students would love it – a FUN Valentine puzzle. Word puzzles are great in a remedial reading class - they build vocabulary! The students were to do simple subtraction, look at the answer, and match the number to a letter in the alphabet. It was a code that would become a Valentine message of love. Jesse approached my desk where I was conferencing with another student.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” he demanded.
“It’s a little math puzzle…”
He interrupted me.
“I hate math!” he proclaimed to the world.
“Jesse,” I pleaded. “It’s simple subtraction. Just do the problem and match the answer…”
“I hate math!” he whined louder.
“Okay, look. Don’t think of it as math. Think of it as breaking a code. When you figure it out, you’ll have a message.”
Jesse turned on his heels, threw his chin in the air, and yelled at the world…
“Is the message ‘I HATE MATH!!?’”
I thought back to my own sixth grade class and how my teacher would give assignments. We would do them without question, without confrontation, without complaint.
Oh, for the good old days.
Just then, Mary brought a stuffed Valentine dog over to my desk. "I can see that Jesse's giving you a problem. You can sleep with this tonight." She started to walk away but stopped and turned toward me. "But if you mess it up, you'll have to get me another one."
Words of Farewell
12 years ago