Dear Mr. Buller I was hoping you would see what it’s really like in Mrs. James’ class when you came in the other day. But as soon as she saw you at the door, she […]
1st Year Teacher
I have been educating young people for more than 25 years, so I am not a first-year teacher. But this is my first year in a public school classroom… or at least an academic core subject classroom. I was prepared for the gifts and the antics of adolescents, although there have been a number of surprises.
I was not prepared for the high-pressure demands on teachers both from within the educational system and with-out. Every new career calls all previous learning and experience into play, so I knew what was coming. The stress in teaching has just come from so many unexpected angles and places that I leave school each day exhausted. I have yet to feel that exhilarating moment when a student gets it like so many teachers describe. Sometimes I wonder… what’s wrong with me?
Ground Control to Major Tom
I am now in my sixteenth year at ground level in education. Although I always try to view things from above, the fact remains that I am knee-deep in the field. What the Marines might affectionately refer to as…well…you know.
10,000 feet above gives me a lot of perspective but below is where reality settles in. Above is where the problems are really visible. Below is where the problems are really really visible. Below is where you get to speak with the students and the teachers and the administrators and the parents and begin to see the problem from their perspective.
Change Must Start With The Need
Ask most students why they attend school and you will probably hear any of the following:
‘Because mom and dad make me.’
‘I like to hang out with my friends.’
‘Being at home gets boring after awhile.’
Ask most students if they would attend school if they didn’t have to and you would likely hear:
This One Student
I have this one boy in my 7th grade math class just like that one you have in your class. He’s a ringleader. He’s an instigator. He always wants the spotlight. Bottom line: he’s just difficult.
Altogether, he is pretty bright in math. Intellectually, this young man is head and shoulders above many of his classmates. Academically, he is a successful student. Emotionally, he is quite immature. [Par for the course as far as adolescent boys go.] We can easily go the distance on this one and surmise that he is bored in my class, so his behavior is too often less than stellar.
Let me give you descriptions of two typical students and see if you can relate.
The first is an 8th grade boy in my math class. Veteran teachers know that classroom behavior is critically dependent on seating placement — where and next-to-whom a student sits is often an accurate predictor of how much learning will sink in. But with this kid, it doesn’t matter in the least. Front / back / side / middle / friends / no friends, he will not learn. Even if he brings paper and pencil, he won’t use them. [He showed up empty-handed to the last test.]
Something’s Gotta Give
Educators abound spend 90% of their time prepping students for state exams, and the other half of their time is spent complaining about them (my apologies to Yogi Berra).
The main complaint from teachers (and parents, and some legislators, and…) is that state exams zap too much valuable instructional time. The time spent in testing sessions is draining to students and ultimately results in a loss of class time.
The bigger argument against the way we mass assess our students (and the one that goes largely unvoiced) is that it does relatively little to prepare students for life and their future ahead.
Would you rather…
Let’s play a game of Would You Rather? Here we go…
If you were an employer in charge of hiring new employees, would you rather have candidates capable of answering questions OR candidates capable of solving problems?
Dear Students —
I want you to know how glad I am to be your math teacher and how happy I am that you are in my class. #Truth. For real. No lies.