Location: Halstead, Kansas, United States

This is my seventh year at Halstead which is also where I live with my wife and my soon to be two year old daughter.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Crisis In Education

It seems that every summer I have at least one epiphany of education and then in the spring I have a crisis of education. Like clockwork yesterday was my day of crisis. Let me explain:

I am not the type of teacher who teaches because of some great idealized dream of changing the world and convincing all of my students that they can achieve whatever they can dream of. I am very practical about my job and career. This does not mean that I do not try to do my best. I take my career seriously and I do try to do the best job that I possibly can. The district pays me to do a job and I will do it to the best of my ability. This is just part of my personality. I am somewhat a perfectionist about any external task that might be evaluated. I tend to go above and beyond in attempts to impress others. Now here is the crisis:

I also expect that my students should have the same attitude about learning as I do about teaching. They might not want to learn something but since they are being evaluated they should do their best. It just seems natural too me. Sadly, it is not natural to some of my classes. Indifference has crept into my classroom and my students have been apathetic. This in turn hurts my drive to teach. It is tough to teach and be motivated when students are half asleep, talking to each other, doing another classes homework, staring at their pen cap, playing a game on a calculator, reading a book, drawing in their agenda, sketching on their hand, eating candy the snuck into class, reading a note they got passed, and drooling on the tables. It seems my energy level is based off of my student energy level. This is probably because I love questions in class and is students do not care then there aren’t a lot of questions.

So what is the solution? Well, I have decided to rededicate myself to the content of my class. I will teach it and expect my students to strive to do their best. Instead of slowing down and begging them to do well, I will keep the expectations high and the pace rigorous. I hope this will keep the energy level high and finish the year on a high note.

Speaking of high notes, I am currently helping a former graduate with a paper on the Brown v. Board case. She is writing on Eisenhower’s role in the case and his views. She is supporting the hidden hand theory that says Ike played a significant role in the pushing civil rights even though he did not show much support in his words. It is always a pleasure to help a student in their pursuit of historical knowledge.


Blogger Coach Brown said...

My friend, I feel for you. The bad thing about having someone elses kid every day is that those parents are not doing the appropriate job preparing them to mature.
Stick to your guns. Make your class one of standards and excellence. As long as you are fair and you work with the kids (which obviously you care about), then you will earn the respect. Just be prepared for anything when you make this change. I did something similar last year and the kids are already programmed to a certain attitude in your class. Kids and parents are not going to be pleased, to start with. I took an amazing amount of crap last year when I changed. But it paid off because I stuck to my standards and this year has been a magnificant experiance. Of course, students will drift (I have seniors. Think Senior trip, cut day, Prom, sports, college visits, Mexico, Senioritis), but if the expectations are clearly stated and adhered to, your students will respect you more. That, and you will prepare them for the real world.

Enjoy your posts!

10:20 PM  
Blogger brittany said...

Remember how you said my paper would most likely be ripped to shreds since most historians disagree with me?

Well I am in for it, because my professor is one of those historians. The other day in class he was speaking on the Brown case, and he just happened to mention Eisenhower, and said EXACTLY the point I am trying to disprove.

Anyway, speaking on student you remember being in high school? I do, quite clearly.

Students fall on a gradient of learning speeds, which we've already discussed. So if schools are taught at the average pace, you have a group of students who can't go that fast and thus don't care, AND you have students that find the pace so agonizingly slow that they basically just check out during class and think about ANYTHING that will help pass the time. You are left with at the very most a third (more likely a fourth) of the students that can focus at that pace. Then you have the ones of that group who just don't care, or that are too preoccupied with all the other life-altering high school drama. In a small classroom, that leaves you with about 3 people that are willing to sit at attention and be fully engaged throughout the 50 minute long lecture.

I think that teaching high school would be one of the toughest positions for student motivation. All the other age groups have ways to get through to them. Little kids will love you and listen raptly to every word that you say if you promise them a) candy, b) fingerpaint, or c) recess. Junior high kids are just a lewd joke away from being in your pocket. College kids are paying to listen to you.

Of course, with high school kids you can get tons of evil pleasure at their ineptitude. No wonder you stick around there, coach.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Mr. Warsnak said...

I do enjoy looking for ineptitude. I enjoy pointing out ineptitude even more. I am fairly sadistic you know.

Anyway, I am sorry that your prof is going to destroy your paper. I would imagine that he is going to say that "Ike did not do enough". Then he will than say that "Ike should have done more". Nothing like hiding your ignorance in a shroud of vagueness. Keep in mind he is going to be talking as someone who lives in the year 2005 and not someone who was president in 1951. The circumstances were a little different back then as was the role of the president. He will ignore these facts by arguing that Ike should have said more. Of course, this goes against Eisenhower's beliefs of leading through action but at this point who cares? I feel for you and I hope you have a good discussion with him and that he respects your work.

9:51 PM  

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