Friday, November 03, 2006

Apparently it's all my fault

I really wasn't planning on talking about this, but this pissed me right off:

Teachers Blamed for Unruly Pupils

An article in the London Metro outlines the opinion of Ofsted workers after observing classes in several different schools in London. They have decided that students who act out or misbehave in class are doing this as a result of "their frustration due to poor teaching".

These people claim that teachers should work harder to motivate their students, using "more varied and interesting lessons".

The National Union of Teachers in the UK condemned the comments, saying that since teaching wasn't being evaluated that these workers didn't know what they were talking about.

As a new teacher, I can't claim to be an expert about the education system or even what it means to be a teacher. But I can say with authority that if a student is not motivated that it's often a result of THEM NOT GIVING A CRAP.

Aside from the few bad teachers who are out there (and yes, I know we've all had at least one), I can't see any educator not trying to make things interesting for their students. Not only do the students get more out of their lessons, but the teachers have more fun too. I would much rather teach a class using projection slides, hands-on materials, creative art, songs, and any other fun way of getting the children to interact with the subject matter. The days of copying from a chalk board or listening to the teacher talk for an hour straight are very much in the past (at least in most schools - certainly all of the ones I've been in).

I currently have a class of 30 children, aged 6 or 7. There are 5 students who constantly need to be monitored, with two who do not seem to respond to any of the various teaching methods or behaviour management techniques I have been using. It takes a lot of time and attention to keep these kids on track, and I fail just as often as I succeed. I could take it personally, but they are exactly the same way no matter who is in the classroom with them.

I keep on trying every day though...

During the last two days, I have been administering standardized tests in literacy and numeracy. These tests start off with very easy questions and increase in difficulty level with each new page. After a lot of discussion with the other primary teachers, I realized that there was no way some of the students would even finish.

The literacy test (today) was a complete nightmare. It required very careful and specific explanation and the children's constant attention - things that these kids have a lot of trouble with. Knowing this ahead of time, I arranged for some of my students who struggle more than the others to work with a reliable teaching assistant, that way I could keep a steady pace with the rest of the class. Talk about misplaced optimism...

"Okay class, look at page 3 and listen carefully. There is a story at the top of the page that you need to read to yourself. I cannot help you read any of the words, so if you don't think you know a word, just try to sound it out.* After you have read the story, look at the bottom of the page. There are three questions about the story there. Beside each question are four pictures of people from the story. One of them is the answer to the question. Underline the person who you think is the correct answer."

* During standardized tests, we are not allowed to give any assistance, as it's a method of measuring the overall ability of the class. Students are not expected to be able to complete every question on these tests (unless they have a very high IQ). It's really hard to watch them struggling and not be able to help...

I provided these instructions in a few different ways, and asked if anybody had any questions. Already there were students writing things, reading the story, or looking around the classroom - obviously not paying attention. The first time this happened, I didn't say a word and waited to see what would happen.

You can probably guess.

"Miiiiss - I don't know what to do!"

"Miiiiss - how many pictures are we supposed to underline?"

"Miss, this is hard - do I have to draw pictures?"

After the third question, I stopped the whole class and told them they must listen carefully to my words. I reminded them to put up their hand if they were confused about what to do. I repeated my instructions once again, answered a couple of questions, and sent the class back to work.

"Miiiiiss - I don't understand"

I stopped them again. (If this is getting annoying to read, just imagine how I felt after repeating the process 15 times in an hour)

This time I restated the instructions and asked one of the students in the class "How many pictures do you need to underline?"

"Um... 3?"

I asked another student how many times they could read the story if they couldn't remember the answers (I'd repeatedly mentioned they could go back as many times as they needed to)

"Um... 5?"

Back to the first student. "A, how many times can we read the story?"

"Oh I know! Once!"

At this point I was ready to either scream or cry, whatever came first. I'd lost count of the number of explanations that had been given, and had answered the same questions over and over. Obviously a large chunk of the class had opted not to listen at all. Some even worked ahead without knowing what they were supposed to do.

I stopped them all again and led the class in a discussion about active listening and paying attention to what people are saying. Not just looking at a person while they're talking, but thinking about the words that they are hearing.

Even after this, when I questioned the children about what I was just talking about - some of them still couldn't tell me.

Already at this stage in their lives, these children have chosen to not listen. Even during a very difficult test, they don't care to try their best and take advantage of the fact that a person is there to help them out. And they are the same with every teacher or adult in the room - after getting a talk about listening from my reliable T.A., I asked one of them to repeat what she'd said because I'd missed it. The first two kids I asked couldn't tell me anything about what she had just said.

So back to that article and the whole point of this loooong rant of mine.

Yes, there are bad teachers out there. Yes, some of them do not make the effort. Yes, some of them do not effectively manage problem behaviour.

For every one of those ineffective teachers is a person like me trying their best to ensure that these children get as much out of their school day as possible. That they learn something new every day and get valuable life skills while doing it. That they learn how to be a good friend and a nice person, and how to work hard and be proud of their successes and learn from their mistakes.

Some of the kids in this class will not be successful. Some of them will not go far in their academic careers, and will never realize the importance of things like learning, respect, and treating others how they want to be treated.

A student's success in the world of School is based on their effort, work ethic, support of their parents or caregivers (I could go on for hours about how incredibly important parents are in this equation), and a belief that learning is important.

Oh, and the help of a good teacher.


  • At 9:01 PM, Blogger Beechball * said…

    In all honestly.. I drank half a bottle od wine already and this post is really long but I WILL come back to read it later!
    P.S. I read a bit and I know you're a great teacher, never doubt!

  • At 12:18 PM, Blogger Beechball * said…

    K I finally read it, and I still stand by my previous comment! I believe you are 100% and although some teachers suck ass, sometimes I just couldn't give a flying youknowwhat and if I don't want to learn about something, I just won't. Don't worry, you're doing great, keep up the good work!


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