I have some pretty amazing colleagues.
Some bad news yesterday coupled with not sleeping well last night and grading some disappointing assessments meant that I started today feeling off. I was short, but not mean or rude, with my students.
Some amazing teachers on Twitter have been doing an incredible job of keeping me grounded. for the most part, they do this by sending me links to a blog of someone who is having similar struggles, but working through them.
It's my blog from last year. It's interesting to me how all these feelings of frustration and annoyance, while they FEEL new, are the same that I've had before. This group of students isn't much different from previous ones.
I began my first period by telling how I was feeling.
I feel betrayed. I've been giving them latitude in the classroom, allowing devices and behavior that I had not in the past with the understanding that they would use those for good and to better their own education. I want to give them choice about their own learning goals, but I'm having trouble doing that in the current framework.
I told them how I don't want to do problems on the board as examples, then have them practice those. That's boring for me and for them. They agreed. I told them that I felt as though they were seeing my class as a time to goof off and not do work. Several of them agreed.
I gave this whole talk with sadness and disappointment, rather than anger and frustration. It seemed to me that they got the point. We went over some examples with which they were struggling. A student asked a question and I would ask another student to do it for us. Then that kid got to ask one.
Overall, by the end of the class, the majority were working very well and I felt much better.
Geometry, however, is another story.
First the first time since I started teaching it, I have students failing.
Through our class discussion, I can tell that it's not from lack of understanding. It comes from a clear refusal to turn in assignments. I have allowed late work to come in with no penalty (as much as it pains me to do so) but that doesn't seem to make a difference. One of the four only turned in a single assignment all marking period.
Attempts to contact parents have gone unreciprocated. I have pulled all 4 aside and explained that they are not living up to the expectations of the class and I won't be able to state that they have mastered the material if they can't show me.
I'm not sure what else I can do for them.
I also don't know what to do for my 8th period. They have days where they are on the ball and working hard, having good discussions, and others where they refuse to get settled. I can't find a common strain for the good days or the bad days.
Today, I was done. I was tired of asking them to stop yelling about football across the room while I'm trying to answer the questions that they just asked me.
I don't know how to consistently engage a large enough portion of the class to produce a learning environment. I feel as though I'm constantly running around, putting out fires while students who genuinely want/need my help are being neglected.
I spend too much of my energy on the loudest kids instead of those who need me the most.
I don't know how to make that shift.
I had to kick a young man out of the room because he simply wouldn't stop being disruptive. He went over and sat in a science class with his work, doing what I had asked of him 20 minutes before.
I went over and thanked him for being on task and asked why he couldn't do that in my room. If he needed a different environment to be more productive, I could do that for him. I've had this talk with him several times, but it seems that as soon as other students are around, he forgets all of it and reverts back.
Peer pressure may be the most destructive thing in a learning environment. I wish I knew a way to make it productive. Students bringing themselves up would be a monumental shift of culture.