Archive for December, 2013

Inside the Staff Room

Posted: December 14, 2013 in Education

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Some of the smartest people I know are those that I am lucky enough to work with. Aside from being some of the most innovative teachers I’ve ever seen, they compose of authors, accomplished musicians, talented film makers, TEDx speakers, and many are also tremendous parents (those that aren’t, will be…should they so choose to have children). I could brag about them all day – I simply try my best to hold my place with them.

In my seven years of teaching, I have learned many things – but one risky thing I’ll say is this: The best teachers are those that talk about their students behind their backs.

We do…it’s true, but allow me to explain:

Yesterday, during my faculty’s research and development session, the topic of how we talk TO and how we talk ABOUT students came up in conversation. At the time, I was already about halfway through planning out this particular blog post, so it was funny that it was a topic of discussion. Anyway, I want to make it clear that it’s not gossip we’re spreading, insults we’re hurling, or laughter we’re enjoying (at the expense of the students) – they are genuine words of concern or praise. When students struggle, believe me when I say that the best teachers will immediately map out a plan for success. One of the ways this can be achieved is by conversing with colleagues. This can often come across as “griping,” but if we didn’t care, we wouldn’t bother. As Olivia says to Cesario (in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night): “That’s a degree to love” (when she is told by Cesario that he pities her for loving him). In other words, feeling SOMETHING towards our students is much better than apathy. My point is this: the teachers that administration and parents need to worry about are those that don’t speak a word – saying nothing is lethargy and lethargy leads to apathy.

The assistance from my colleagues comes in the form of asking: What can I do? What else can I do? What happens when the student does this? You taught him/her last year, what strategies worked for you? What do you think would happen if I tried this?

By discussing students with my colleagues I provide hope for that student, I can construct strategies that may work, I illustrate that I care, and through all of the aforementioned, I make a better connection between myself and my students.

Talking about students behind their backs sounds negative, but it’s a degree to love (care). Inside the staff room is a sacred space (any teacher will tell you that) – sure, it’s a chance for some privacy/space from students, a chance for some fun lunchtime conversation, and even a chance to just relax from the noise of the hallway. The majority of the time, however, inside the staff room is when the planning happens and the deep conversations focused around student learning take place.

Don’t kid yourselves…we talk about students a heckuvalot…all in their best interest.

Instant Gratification

Posted: December 1, 2013 in Education, Humanity, Literature

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Though it hasn’t happened recently, it has happened many times before – as soon as students have finished writing a test for me or even an essay, they ask if it’s been marked yet. Sometimes this question comes the day after the test, sometimes a few days later, and sometimes it happens at the end of the same class they just wrote the test in! Hypothesis? Students do not have patience. Reason? We live in an instant gratification society. However, this cannot be blamed on students…we all have less patience than generations before.

A University student posted a status on Facebook asking his friends who wanted to get drunk. His mother (who he inexplicably has on Facebook) posted a comment thoroughly explaining her hopes that, although he was of-age to drink, he was doing so responsibly while now living on his own. Her post wasn’t lengthy (maybe a paragraph, if that), but his response to his mother was the acronym: TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read). Was he too lazy to read a paragraph OR Did he see that the post was from his own mother and couldn’t be bothered? Maybe a little of both. However, it points to our laziness and need for instant gratification. I’ll be honest, I am careful not to make my blog posts too long for fear that readers don’t read to the end.

Anyway, back to students. They want the answers immediately and sometimes are not willing to put forth the effort in attaining it. I can understand wanting to know their grade as soon as possible, but students are the unfortunate products of a “Google Search” society. For instance, students (not all, but some) don’t want to see how the conch shell in Lord of the Flies is symbolic of order – they want to be told. Students don’t want the challenge of figuring out Shakespeare’s language – they want No Fear Shakespeare to translate it for them. Here’s my predicament: I would rather BOTH of the aforementioned over apathy, but then I deal with a new foe: Lethargy.

I’ll say it again, we can’t blame students for this, entirely. We live in a “Google Search” society where having to work for the answers requires very little effort at all – just the click of a button. So, when students are asked to push past this and provide some more mental energy, this becomes a tough task. Students don’t want to think critically because, quite simply, they don’t want to think. We are all products of this in some way.

We all hate waiting in line (post office, Tim Horton’s, cafeteria, etc…), we gravitate towards fast food, waiting at a traffic light can be frustrating, and even waiting for someone to respond to a text drives us crazy. We all desire instant gratification.

Instead of being more efficient (maybe, arguably, we are), we are becoming more lazy. The bigger implications are what happens to the state of education and this new breed of students that we’re developing? What happens to business? What happens to the arts?