Friday, February 17, 2012

Different students make my job much, much different.

(For reference, IB means International Baccalaureate, a program we have at our school for particularly motivated kids.)

To recap...

Semester 1

2 × Grade 9 Applied Science: lots of indifference, mild insanity, kids possibly raised by wolves
1 × Grade 12 Earth & Space Science: fun enough, somewhat intellectually stimulating early on

Typical classroom goings-on (i.e., with the Grade 9s):
  • near-constant texting being done by at least one person in the room
  • kids often late for class, and/or absent for no reason
  • pen? pencil? Who brings those to class?! It's ok, someone'll give me one, and if nobody will, whatever, I just won't do any work
  • homework isn't going to get done; might as well not bother assigning any
  • "So, I'm getting over 50 percent, right? I'm cool with that."
Overall conclusion one could gain from teaching these kids:
We're probably not doomed as a species, but it might be a bit touch-and-go at times.

Semester 2

1 × Grade 10 Academic Science (IB Preparation): nerds in training
1 × Grade 11 IB Physics: not entirely nerds, but wow, they're a disciplined bunch
1 × Grade 12 Physics: like to have a little fun, but like to get down to work even more

Typical classroom goings-on (all classes):
  • routinely discussing the kids' plans for university
  • if you give them a handout, it never ends up on the floor/in a sink/ripped up/in someone else's binder/covered in pop/covered in a mysterious substance/crumpled up in a desk
  • if they're away a day, it's usually for something legit
  • if they're away a day, they always ask the next day what they missed, and/or they've already got yesterday's notes/handouts/whatever from someone who was there
Overall conclusion one could gain from teaching these kids:
We're in good hands.

* * * * * * *

Today we had a PD day. Now, if you've never been a teacher, your first instinct will probably be to think, "Whoa, lucky! You had the day off!" But, while the kids get a day off, we sure as hell don't. PD stands for Professional Development, and most of it is unbelievably lame... with the exception of PD done by current classroom teachers for current classroom teachers.

You get some bozo in from a Faculty of Education, or from some company or something, or even from up in the Board offices somewhere, they don't have a good god damn clue what the fuck goes on in classrooms. They may never have been a teacher — or, it's been decades since they've been one, so they may as well have never been one in the first place. But today's workshops were, for the most part, pretty useful because they were put on for us, by us.

Two out of the three sessions I went to today were thought-provoking, useful, and a little bit education-nerdy. (The third was really not my cup of tea, but somewhat interesting regardless; one of the presenters drove me crazy by inserting the word "actually" into every sentence he spoke, sometimes two or three times.) Hell, it's Friday night — prime-time for picking up prostitutes down on Jarvis, believe me — and I've spent an hour so far reading up on inquiry-based learning in physics classrooms.

* * * * * * *

There's a larger point here, and it ties together both of the items above.

Last semester, I was focused on managing all the bad stuff the kids were doing, and it wore me out; in addition, I was counting down the days to the end of the semester and looking forward to it as a break. Now, I'm all energized and excited and thinking about all the great stuff I can do with my classes, trying out new things — and, because my kids are mostly energized about school (or, at the very least, they fake it pretty well), I know they'll buy into it. I'm counting down, but mostly because I want these kids to stick around a little longer.

Now, this is me we're talking about, but I'm a very small cog in a very big machine. Ultimately, it's the kids who walk away with either a good or a bad experience — whether they learned some science or not, whether they enjoyed themselves or not, whether they were interested or bored — and, frankly, I get paid either way, so if I'm emotionally drained at the end of the week and want to booze myself into a fog on Saturday night, well, that's pretty much only my problem.

To use a sports analogy: you gotta leave it all out on the field. Especially for the non-academic kids. Those are the ones who take all the time, take all the effort, and end up driving you crazy... but, and here's the point, they're the ones for whom you can make the biggest difference. So you suck it up, spend your sanity, and hope you made an impact. (Hell, I overheard one of my students from last semester — probably the one who drove me the third-craziest, and that's saying something — say to another kid, "Aw, that's Mr. L, he's greezy, yo." If you'll recall your South Scarberian, that is a compliment, so at least I did alright with him.)

Anyway, I'm rambling, and the whores downtown are waiting. I just hope Clitoria is still there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"booze myself into a fog" - great expression. Also Clitoria? Gold.