June 13, 2014
My two week stint as a summer school teacher has come to an end and so, it is time for reflection. Educators worth their salt know that in order to improve their effective instructional practices, reflection is a must at the end of every lesson, unit, day, month, year, professional development class, etc. It helps to see what works, what needs improvement, how we can better serve our students, our schools, our colleagues, our communities, ourselves, etc. In other words, how to use every waking, breathing, livable moment of our lives to create master teachers, dang it, because we teachers, are failing our students!
My apologies, dear Readers, for my little soapbox rant. I am back on track now. Although it may appear that I am poking fun at reflection insofar as it relates to my teaching, I believe it to be a valuable tool in assessing what I need to improve upon. Unfortunately, without the cooperation of the other ‘players’ on the educational field, my improvement will only go so far in helping our students to achieve. The players’ roster includes, but is not limited to, students, other teachers, administrators, parents, and even society at large. Now, how’s a girl supposed to get all of those entities on board the “Yea, Learning!” train? I’ll tell you, it ain’t easy!
For the past two weeks, I was the instructor of record for a credit recovery class for a group of 6th and 7th grade students. For those of you dear Readers who thought disinterest in institutionalized learning began in high school, I can assure you that it does not. Yes, it seems that even 11 and 12 year olds need help recovering their credits. Gone are the days when little Suzy or little Johnny had to repeat a grade because of failing marks. Now, (cue Superman theme song) teachers can advance a pupil’s learning ability through the help of self-directed, computer based programs.
For the past few years, computer based learning programs have become all the rage. Which is fine, for a certain section of the student population. The demographics for that certain student population, I believe, would be as follows: self-motivation. Yes, dear Readers, self-motivation is the key. Without that, self-directed, computer based programs are difficult to teach at best, and a disaster waiting to happen, at the very least. Here is where I come in.
My class started with 18 students, 3 girls and 15 boys, all completely disinterested in spending 4 consecutive hours staring at a computer screen and me staring at their backs. Of the three girls, two were highly interested in the boy seated next to them. Moving the girls away from their love interest did no good, they just moved their interests along with their seats. And sending them to the office did no good, as they were right back in my class the next day. Sigh. As for the boys, two slept their way through the first two days of class, four kept trying to hide the fact that they were spending the majority of their time on gaming sites, and three of the boys could not stay seated (one kept wandering aimlessly around the room, while the other two simulated professional wrestlers in the middle of the room). As for the remaining 9 boys, three tried to continuously get onto web sites that had been blocked by the school district, one tried to hack into the control panel, and one wore an ankle monitoring device that kept beeping because it needed to be recharged. So, for those of you keeping track, of the 18 students on my roster, exactly 5 were willing to learn. Unfortunately, they were the five neediest of the bunch. You know the type; cannot type a word without the approval of the teacher. So all day long it’s, “Miss, Miss, Miss, c’mere, pleeeeeease, I need your help. Miss, Miss, did I do this right? Miss, why don’t you help me?” Sigh.
I can laugh now, dear Readers, summer school is over. And although it does sound like a comedy of errors, that is exactly what it was like the first few days. By the end of the first week however, the students got on track, with a few exceptions. By the end of the second week, all but those few exceptions had passed the classes they had failed throughout the regular school year and recovered their credits. Not bad for two weeks of summer school. As for the few exceptions, the three boys trying to get onto websites blocked by the district, well, they managed to get on some of them. What were the sites you may ask? Well, let’s just say that three of my students now have a very good grasp on the female anatomy, a very good grasp. Sigh. I guess it goes with the territory. Here’s to a restful rest of the summer. Peace, ~v.