Archive for February, 2011

24
Feb
11

we have a problem

is anyone looking for a golden retriever that likes to swim in the pool at 3 am and then snuggle in, soaking wet,  to the beds of small children?

I have that dog.

And a wet bed.

Only kidding about giving that dog away.

But like I said, that is our problem around here right now.

21
Feb
11

A few moments

To capture

16
Feb
11

my goodness

Did you see this in the news?

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/02/16/national/main20032196.shtml

I have a lot of thoughts.

I am going to put them out there in some messy ways to start.

This topic is close to my heart. I am a teacher. I am a blogger. I am a mother. I am a person.

To start, I don’t know this woman. (of course). But I know about her life a little bit. You see, I can, (as can many other teachers) relate to what she is saying. As a teacher, I hate to break the truth to the world, but there is validity in what she said. I also have students who are unmotivated, indulged, and lazy. That is the truth. There have always, for years, been students that fit that description. Of course. I think all teachers have wanted to say some of the things she said, it’s just that we don’t have either the gumption or the time or the deep seated anger to let these truth rule our classrooms. I have felt her frustration before, but I think the place where our paths diverge is that she chooses to take the negative and run with it.

Is she a bad teacher? I’m not sure. I haven’t seen her teach. But my guess is, that if she feels this embittered about her students, without taking the time to see them as human beings, she is probably very angry and frustrated with them in the classroom. And an environment laden with frustration is only going to breed apathy, disdain, and even more frustration. In my personal opinion, teachers must fall back on grace and empathy, lest we become angry and vengeful. Seriously. (See post below for one example.)

Are students lazy whiners in this day and age? Yes. Absolutely. I do think they are more than ever.

But is it really their fault? Possibly. Possibly not. Students who are raised in circumstances in which academics were never valued have to be mentored in way that requires time and patience. Most of these students fall through the cracks because who has the time and the energy to parent one hundred fourteen year olds? Who has the time to teach one hundred students how to be patient? Or kind? Or responsible? Or how to keep track of their assignments? Or organize their binder? Or speak to an authority figure? Or focus for 20 minutes on a single task?

We (the educator who were students in the 20th century) assume they know how to do these things. I’m not so sure that is a safe assumption. I am pretty sure that when your home life is chaotic, you are not yet fluent in English, and your mom smokes weed at night… the assumption of these simple strategies is null and void.  Do these students really have a good picture of respect, responsibility, and a vision for where their education could take them? Do I (as a teacher and a person) understand chaos in the home? All that I have had is order, or some relative degree of order. My parents were there. They read to me, encouraged me, and provided a framework under which I could succeed in an academic setting. I succeeded in school because that was the expectation and they showed me small things I could do to be successful. In my opinion, the singlemost determining factor for academic success is students having a person or persons who support them actively in their academic pursuits. It is not about money or race or even language, it is about children being loved and cared for.

I can’t be a parent to all the students in my class. That is not my expectation. But possibly, each year, there may be a few students who need support in a different way. Who need a mentor…  who need a hug… who need a listener… who need a tutor… who need a disciplinarian… who need us. Being a mentor is no small thing. Students need consistent influences in their lives who promote not only emotional development, but also academic development. There is a huge deficit in students today. They are lazy and they do whine. But it is because they have been allowed to by the people in their lives. They have been allowed to not do chores around their home. They have been allowed to talk on the phone as much as they like. They have been allowed to go to school for years without sharing academic knowledge with their families. They have been allowed to slip through those cracks. The bottom line is, if mom or dad or someone they are close to do not value education in an active, disciplined way, the students have no model and no accountability for being successful. And they will resist schoolwork that serves them (as they see it least) no purpose. And they will actively resist learning if they do not have a model for how that learning will propel them to a better life, a better job, and a better existence. It takes a lot of trust for a student to do science worksheets, when deep down they have no idea what the purpose of the lesson is. How can they trust that it (the schoolwork) is worth their while? To develop academic trust with these students, you often first have to develop personal trust. And how can students trust a person who is constantly angry and mean-spirited towards them?

Getting back to the original issue.

Did this woman speak the truth?

Absolutely (not all students, but many students fit the description).

But is this right and permissible?

As a teacher, I think there is a bit of a moral code. How can serve something you hate? I hate to break it to the teachers out there, but our job sucks at times (oh wait, you already knew that.) But when you are knee deep in the mire of disappointment and frustration with students and politics and policies, there is the hope of those few kids who will be the future of this country. They are out there now, sitting in desks, thinking quietly as the teacher might rage inwardly. They are the scientists, politicians, businesspeople, artists, writers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, and oh yeah, teachers of the future. They are sitting there not knowing that they have this enormous gift and challenge, and to them, the world is still a blank slate.

And the truth is, some of the most difficult, resistant students might possibly be able to change their paths. They might be sitting on a gold mine, aimlessly looking around when all they are waiting for is someone to tell them they can dig, dig already. They have the tools, they just haven’t been valued. They have been screamed at, and given up on, and also it has been determined that they aren’t digging because they don’t want to. I think maybe they just don’t know how. And they are scared to do something different. They are scared of the unknown. And they don’t want to look like a fool.

I think of those students. I think about them every day. Because they are the students that make being a teacher worth it.

They are the reason I get up in the morning and go to work.

They look at me when they walk in the door.

They are my kids.

**This woman has the right to say what she wants when she wants it. But in my opinion, being a teacher is a higher calling that requires humility and steadfastness in even the most challenging circumstances. Maybe she should re-evaluate if this is the best career fit for her.

16
Feb
11

How many?

How many chances do you give people?
As a teacher I am told that kids only deserve so many chances to turn in their work, tuck thir shirt in, or stop chewing gum.
I guess that is what you call policy.
But today I met with a student that has a very low grade in my class and obviously has other things going on in his life.
Today was about the 5th time I had asked him to come to tutorials and he finally came. Because I had to make sure I called his dad and the principal to get him there.
And he came.
I honestly didn’t know where to start with him. He is so behind.
So we sat together and worked on a few smallish tasks. Nothing compared to the gaping hole of his irresponsibility.
We made a plan for him to follow on a few assignments. I was just happy for him. Who knows if he actually knows this: He was finally doing the right thing. Or maybe just making me happy. Regardless, maybe it worked. Maybe he saw that doing the right thing can be fulfilling.
As he walked out the door, he looked me in the eye and said, “Ms Barrett, thanks for giving me a second chance.”
I sometimes doubt grace in the classroom but – then I go back to moments like these. Please father let them see you through me.

Who in the world has the right to any second chances?

15
Feb
11

I wasn’t sure how long I would wait

before posting something here.

For me, the silence is probably due to the fact I have hard things to say. Or that January is the worst month of the year for me, an annual event accompanied by the fact that all I want to do is get through it.

Someone I know has died this month. Someone I know lays dying tonight.

I watched a movie about dying.

But I, of course am alive. And typing. And this sometimes seem wrong.

I took a break from the blog because I was bummed out and I hate to write when I am bummed. I don’t want to be exposed. And honestly, a blog can seem ridiculous in light of life and death.

But I think that is just the pride talking, because sometimes a blog is what shares glimpses of truth and maybe my fear just lies in the truth that things can be hard sometimes.

Please pray for Sarah and Eric.

It kind of makes me mad and confused.

And powerless of course.

I think these are the things that teach me that technology is both inconsequential and binding. May we not forget the lives that are lived with great courage and conviction and that make our ordinary lives a appear a little more dangerous.

I know I am feeling more fragile.