(Originally posted 3/13/10)
Warning: My personal opinion only. I know that some people will see this differently. That’s ok with me. :o) (I sent a version of this to the moretprs listserv in addition to posting it here.)
This is the time of year when some kids just push us over the edge. Maybe they are mouthy. Maybe they are combative. Maybe they are passive-aggressive. Maybe they try to be solid lumps of stone covered by a hoodie. On the listserv, in emails, on Facebook, in the faculty room….teachers are letting out their frustrations. I know that sometimes these kids seem incomprehensible….especially since many of us really enjoyed classes in high school. There may be a lot of reasons why they are in our classrooms and why it appears that they have no good reason to be there. Here are some possibilities…(warning…maybe too many of them!!):
* They did not choose their schedules. A parent, counselor, former teacher, administrator thought they should be in there…or even more likely has no idea that they are, much less whether or not they should be.
* Students often “get” that they have to “take” a class. They don’t always “get” that that means participating in and passing a class. Oh yes, I”m serious. What they are told is: You have to take such and such. Imagine that you have a very literal mind. What would that mean to you?
* Many of them have experienced classes where they COULD sit, not participate, and pass. Who knows how or why…but I’ve seen it happen. If they got through one, they may be fairly certain that they cdan do it in your room.
* Many of them are very very bright. They are used to absorbing enough material to get by without doing much else.
* They really don’t care if they get anything out of it. School is a place to escape home. That’s all that matters.
* They are suffering from depression and/or anxiety. Just being there takes all the effort they have. Participating is, truly, too much to expect.
* They are hurting. Bruised inside by someone’s abuse or a situation beyond their control. Their coping mechanism is an ugly whiplash response to anyone and anything.
* They feel inadequate. (even, well…especially…if they are very smart) This is a new venue, or one in which they feel smart enough in. They feel lost and respond by striking out or hiding.
* They are very intuitive. They recognize when we need to be liked and find it distasteful. (perhaps because that need is so great within themselves) So they throw it back in our faces by rejecting us and our class.
* They are over-exercising their newly-developed skills of analysis don’t know it. They have analyzed us and found us lacking. it’s a natural part of growing up and yes…it can be annoying and irritating and frankly, rude.
* They don’t know how to deal with us. We may be too loud or too silly or too whatever for their taste and comfort level. Language teachers are NOT like other teachers and while they have had many math and English teachers over the years, they haven’t had many of us to deal with….and especially not CI based language folks. We don’t stand up in the front and speak at them while they sit there and absorb it. Remember, kids are HIGHLY REWARDED for being silent in other classes.
* We are women. Sorry to say it, but it is true of many teachers in the profession. Many teens are reworking their relationships with the opposite sex. Or the same sex. Or someone who is parent-like.
* They trust us enough to not behave well. They know that we are not going to swear at them, write them up every day, call their parents and rant, be sarcastic in front of the entire class.
* They have an undiagnosed, or unaddressed learning issue. Many times they have learned how to fade into the background in other subjects. They haven’t figured out how to do it in a language. Every year we seem to uncover students with unrecognized issues.
It is probably very complicated. That is why we can rarely solve it. We can only do what we can. The hardest thing to do is to not take it personally. As I said before, when we were students, most of us would have done anything and everything necessary to do well and to learn the material.
THEY ARE NOT US. We cannot try to understand them from our own perspective. If we really want to understand them, we have to look at their world from their perspective.
If we want them to be us, well, frankly that ain’t gonna happen.
If we want to survive them, then we need to register them on our radar, but refrain from locking in on them as a target.
If we want to help them, then we need to first accept them as they are. We don’t have to like all of their behaviors, or even tolerate those behaviors in our classroom. But we do have to accept that they are their own quirky, complicated, adolescent beings. And that they have the right to be a student in our classroom….even if they don’t always act that way.
We will also have to bring in a support system. For us as much as for them.
This may seem very difficult. But I promise you…this is REAL teaching. The kids that smile and do all of their work and raise their hands and try really hard. They don’t need you. They will flourish with any teacher. But the tough nuts? They need you the most.
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