Learning to Teach

Despite the recommendations people gave me for a good first day of class—such as, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” ; wear pajamas; give out stickers, seriously—I didn’t do any of those things. Perhaps if I had, it would have been a more auspicious, or at least more memorable, beginning. Instead, the hour unwound in what must be a very typical way for a young, inexperienced teacher taking on his first class with students of this particular age. I was working with fourteen-year-olds. At this age they are all over the chart in terms of maturity levels. More than half of the 14 fourteen-year-olds did their work diligently; about 4 of them chatted almost incessantly in French about unrelated topics when they were supposed to be interviewing their classmates in English or listening to their classmates report on what they found out; and 1 of them absolutely refused to do the work and sat in the corner clicking a mouse repeatedly and trying to make paper noise-makers. This particular student eventually cut his finger somehow through his antics and had to go to the nurse’s office. Wow.

It’s amazing to me, although it shouldn’t be, having gone through three years of middle school myself, that certain kids just don’t pay attention or try everything possible to avoid doing what’s asked of them. It’s distracting (and I want to say infuriating, but that’s too strong a word here) for the teacher and for the kids who actually do want to learn. I know this shouldn’t be the right mindset to take, but I almost want to just let the slackers slack off. I’d much rather just have a group of kids who were willing to learn and free them of the dead-weight of those who aren’t willing. But of course, the job of a good teacher is not simply to get kids to pass tests on the particular subject matter that he or she teaches, but to get them to appreciate the importance of learning—to show them that even though it can be annoying and boring listening to people who are older than them, that it really is to their advantage to show them a proper level of respect and deference.

How to make them appreciate this I suppose is the main conundrum. This is why people go to education school: to learn effective methods to make children and teenagers appreciate the importance of learning. I could see how it would be rewarding to get through to some of the slackers and in-class disruptors, especially those who show that spark of intelligence but that obstinate refusal to be molded.

Let me sculpt your young minds!

8 thoughts on “Learning to Teach

  1. Amy Nelson says:

    The kid playing with paper eventually got a paper cut. I guessed that! Do I get a sticker?!

  2. jamesrnelson says:

    Wasn’t a paper cut actually. I think he was running his hand along a rough edge of a table and got a large splinter that made it bleed pretty badly.

  3. Mike says:

    Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…

  4. Beth Saboe says:

    Well, you can let the uncooperative guy sit in the back and fool around (perhaps a form of ‘hiding’ actually); or move him up front, and call on him more often. No chance to hide (what he doesn’t know). Or use him for show and tell…holds up bloody hand, “Does anyone know what this is?” (in English) Or ask the class, “Does he do this all the time, or it is because I am new here?” Conversation will undoubtedly begin….

  5. Jacque says:

    Is the French English teacher in the room, too? What does he/she think? Maybe your results are at least as good as theirs. Just don’t act frustrated in front of the kids, or they will think they are winning!

  6. Adrienne Ketcham DeNigris says:

    Ask your cousin about teaching 14 year olds. . .he can certainly tell you some stories and maybe even give some pointers ! The toughest age to teach at best. Good luck with them.

  7. Cody says:

    When I studied Latin, the only redeeming quality was learning about ancient Rome, a fascinating subject by itself. Without the history lessons and the stories, I would not have absorbed any Latin. My motivation was not to learn Latin for it’s own sake, but to be able read primary sources about Rome. Perhaps you could motivate your uncooperative students in this same fashion, by providing them glimpses of what they will be a able to read and see with English.

  8. Patrick says:

    You should make them all pick an English song to learn and have them perform it in front of the class. They will definitely learn some English, if not out of interest, then out of fear to suffer embarrassment.

    Probably’ll build character too.

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