Tuesday, May 29, 2007
CLASSROOM REALITIES LEFT BEHIND
The Straight Dope
For the past two Tuesdays, it has been most valuable to read a student perspective of certain disappointing classroom realities. Both writers spoke eloquently about the issue of student motivation and achievement; both expressed exasperation at the sad fact that the slackers and whiners from high school did not change; rather, they migrate to a college setting with the same old sob story of excuses that serve as reasons to fake think and fake learn.
I read both of these entries with great interest and commend the writers. Upon some reflection, I offer you the "straight dope" from a teacher's perspective.
First and foremost, many teachers share the same frustrations that you do regarding student apathy, entitlement, and laziness. The attitude of "give me that 'A' simply for breathing in your classroom for 80 minutes" is something with which we are most familiar and frustrated. This alone could probably drive the faint of heart away from the profession in search of a more rewarding job, one with a company car and stock options perhaps. But for those of us that remain in teaching, learning to roll with the punches and keep encouraging our full spectrum of learners is just part of a very complicated puzzle. Believe it or not, this type of student is, in many ways, not our real problem.
How can we best handle these students? How can we best meet their needs and lead them out of the Dagobah System and into a true environment of academic learning? Quite simply, teachers need to be supported and respected for the professional educators they are. This means:
1. Teachers should not be labeled by their colleagues as the "academic" ones (the implication here is that being academic is a bad thing). I really resent being laughed at when I actually read and respond to my students' writing. I guess some colleagues fake teach like some students fake read.
2. Teachers should always be supported by administrators in cases of clear and blatant cheating. If a student cries "personality conflict," he or she better produce documented evidence like the Spark Notes that I hold in my hand.
3. Instructional time should be considered just that. I don't want to be bothered by a committee head telling me that I will lose 15 minutes of class for pumpkin carving and I don't want a student missing a literature test because he or she wants to give blood. NEWSFLASH: Pumpkins and blood drives both exist out of the walls of a high school.
This is just the top three (not in any order) of a long list of straight dopisms. I guess what I am trying to say is, there is an entire system of mediocrity at work here. You cannot solely blame the students when forces larger than the Death Star (take for existence, a Secretary of Education with only a bachelor's degree - not in education, by the way) impact the secondary education system.