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Things I Will Never Understand About Teaching…

There are a few things about teaching that I’m sure I will never understand.  I’m sure that no matter how much science I did and no matter how many la-BOHR-uh-tor-ees I put together, I will never find the answers to the infinite unknowable.  And though I was once a teenager, apparently I was an oddball, because for the LIFE of me I never did some of the things that my students do.

That said…things I will never understand about teaching:

  1. Why do kids stand in inconvenient places?
    1. If there is a doorway, students will stand in it.  Why?  Furthermore:
    2. If there is a hallway, kids will clump up in the middle of it, blocking off the arteries of the school like…cholesterol.
    3. If you are cleaning your classroom, walking from desk to desk, or obviously walking back and forth between your desk and the whiteboard, the kid talking to you will follow you back and forth, and you will trip over them several times before telling them to just sit down somewhere and tell you what they want you to know.
  2. Do they want you to yell at them?  My grandmother used to ask me this question all the time, and now I understand it.  It does not matter how many times you ask them not to, they will.  Until you yell at them.  And then they will look hurt.
  3. I suppose that my father would say ‘If there is a doorway, Alicia will leave it open and attempt to air condition the neighborhood.’  Perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much….but WHY oh WHY must they stand in the middle of the doorway?
  4. Who came up with the rule that “if my bookbag is in the classroom, but I’m not, it means I’m not late”?  Because they always look confused when I tell them that this is not a thing.
  5. Likewise, who came up with the rule that when your teacher says “take off your headphones” all you need to do is pull one out of your ear?  It is not okay to talk to people with one headphone dangling out of your ear.  This is not a thing!
  6. Why don’t we do more to encourage/teach kids to think?  Thinking is hard and unpleasant work for those who are not accustomed to it.
    1. If you want students to learn, you should ask them to think.
    2. If you want students to “be good”, you should give them a worksheet.
    3. Students may not like worksheets, but they do like the certainty of knowing what they are doing.
    4. For some reason, they can’t learn and “be good” at the same time.
    5. I’m always nervous when my students are “being good”.
  7. Students enjoy hard work.  So why do they complain when they have hard work?
    1. They want structure.  They want to learn.  They don’t want to be spoonfed information.  They would prefer to be learning than napping on their desks.
    2. All of the above observable facts are contrary to what their whining would have you believe.
  8. Kids, though not always well behaved, are generally good.  Why do people think kids are bad?  Worse yet, why do people tell me that my job is noble or that they wouldn’t or couldn’t do it?
  9. Saying something to the entire class is less meaningful than saying the exact same thing to individual kids.  Similarly, writing down instructions word-for-word is much less meaningful than reading them directly to the kid.  Why must I repeat THE EXACT SAME INSTRUCTIONS to students at their desks that I gave the entire class?
  10. Kids will say that they don’t understand something…and then when you ask them what they do understand, they will repeat the exact assignment back to you.  What is THAT all about?
  11. Why do kids think that when their diction and spelling suddenly improve dramatically in a paper that somehow you won’t get suspicious and catch their plagiarized work?
  12. Why are kids surprised when they fail a test or quiz that they fell asleep on?  Furthermore…why are they surprised when they aren’t allowed to make it up?

I might add that if I did understand these things, I would be able to harness this knowledge for the powers of good…and an awesome book deal.  Am I the only one who deals with these issues?  Has anyone figured out the answers?  Ron Clark?  Harry Wong?  Anyone?!

Teaching & Social Networking – Is It Do-able?

This was a post I originally shared with my students on my teacher blog.  It is something that I’m particularly interested in, so I wanted to save it on my personal blog as well as a teacher reflection.

Right now, in order to check my (or the school’s or county’s) Facebook page, I have to put it in a special username and password.  Why?  Because Facebook, and other sites geared toward social networking – like LiveJournal or Tumblr – are blocked.  These sites are deemed too out of control, too unprofessional, too irrelevant, and too controversial to be granted general access past our district’s firewall.

Certainly, teacher/student Facebook relationships have raised a veritable hailstorm of controversy.  (When Teachers Talk Out of School – NYTimes.com).  Pshaw, even things that teacher’s post on Facebook to their own friends – about school or about their personal lives – have become questionable.

The list goes on and on.

Now another teacher, Viki Knox, is coming under fire for “anti-gay” comments that she made on Facebook, objecting to a school display for National LGBT History Month.  The high school display honored gay and lesbian authors and artists who have contributed to great works of art, music, and literature.  Knox, made the comment that “homosexuality is a perverted spirit that has existed from the beginning of creation.”  She also said that she was “pitching a fit” in response to the display.

You can read about it here…and here…and here…:

This has, of course, raised tons of debate – both supporting the teacher’s right to free speech and against the teacher, saying that she couldn’t possibly perform her job while holding and voicing such opinions.  But, this raises several questions.

  1. Can Facebook and other social networks have a positive place in school?
  2. Should they be banned outright?
  3. Should teachers be held accountable for what they do outside of school?
  4. Do teachers have a right to free speech?

What do you think?

(Respond below by clicking on the comment button.)

Teaching to Distraction

Some days, I wish I worked at a job where I could walk in, do my work, and go home.

But I can’t do that, because I’m a teacher.

  • I wish that I didn’t have to put on a happy face upon entering the building.
  • I wish that I didn’t have to hide my food, because any kid seeing it is going to say “Hey, thanks for bringing me that Bojangle’s,” or “Ooh, what are you eating?” or “Should you be eating that?” or “I can’t believe you’re eating that without giving me any.”
  • I wish that I could hold a conversation with one person without having another person repeatedly shouting my name and sucking in their breath when I don’t immediately respond.
  • I wish that I could talk to one student without feeling taps on my opposite shoulder or seeing the backs of someone’s hands repeatedly covering my eyes and asking “Guess who?!”
  • I wish I could drive down the street without waving to everyone.
  • I wish I could go to the bathroom or close the door to my room without having some kid think they’re entitled to enter at will.
  • I wish that my students could see me working and know that perhaps their IMMEDIATE NEED to tell me who fell in the lunchroom can wait a couple of seconds.
  • I wish that I could clean my dry erase board without immediately having to clean it again because of flowers and hearts and “I love you”s and “Your the coolest teacher” (sic).
  • I wish that I could go home without taking the cares of my kids with me.
But then, it seems, just when I’m frustrated the most, someone comes along and makes my job worthwhile.
  • A kid says thanks for caring about what happens to me when I go home.  Thanks for asking about that thing that happened that time.
  • A kid shares a funny story with me because they knew I would like it – or emails me a picture of an otter because they know otters make me happy.
  • A coworker tells me I look snazzy in a new top and commiserates with me about the stresses of my job.
  • A parent sees me in the store and tells me how much their kid has learned from being in my classroom.
  • A kid brings me a cupcake that they made in foods class, making sure that it doesn’t have too much icing because they remember me saying that I don’t like the icing that much.
  • People wave to me and smile at me when I walk in, because they’re happy to see me.
  • My board gets covered with flowers and hearts and I love you’s and “your…i mean you’re…the coolest teacher”s.
  • A former student comes to visit and says that the thing that we learned that they didn’t think they’d need…they actually did need.
  • Heavens forfend, someone actually learns something!
And I become re-addicted to teaching all over again.

Student Blogs

Cross Posted to  .

A while ago, perhaps about a year, I was wondering if anyone had taken up blogging with their students – or, rather, getting their students their own blogs.  I was frustrated with the fact that blogger, wordpress, livejournal, and tumblr had all been blocked by the school’s firewall.  (Fahrenheit 451 Wall, is more like it.  The other day, I was blocked from opening a student’s essay on irony because she had talked about "The Cask of Amontillado" and used to word "kill" in the summary.  But that rant is not what this post is about…)  Since then, I’ve found Edublogs, which is allowed past the school’s firewall.  It’s basically WordPress and, for the most part, was rather difficult for them to figure out.  I think we’ve got the hang of it now…

However, after they created their blogs and set up their URLs and got everything together, they looked at me and said "Now what?"
"Um…the air conditioning is broken.  Write about how hot it is." I responded…

 Because i hadn’t thought that far ahead.  And apparently, neither has the internets, because I’ve found many and mucho information about incorporating student blogging into the classroom experience.  I already had discussion boards, which the students did regularly, I wanted something that was their own.  And, the blogging that I’ve witnessed from other classes looks more like someone took journal assignments and posted them online – but hasn’t had their kids do much more with it.  There’s also a student blogging challenge, which appears to be more related to fixin’ up a blog than using blogs in lessons.

So far, I’ve done a few things. I’d decided that, since they’re seniors, on Wednesdays, they will use blogs to explore college essay writing – but then I became afraid that someone might steal their precious work off the ‘nets.  (So far, the work hasn’t been precious enough to steal, but, yeah..)  I also decided that on Fridays they would link to and talk about a current events issue – however, so far, embedding video on the edublog doesn’t seem to be much of an option.

So.
I have a teacher blog.
My students have student blogs.
Now what?

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