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!