Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Question of Style

I'm starting to settle quite nicely into my new placement.

I'm really enjoying working with my CT. She has been teaching high school English for more than twenty years (I'm not sure of the exact number, but I do know that she was my teacher when I went to school there, and I graduated in '87) and she has an easy confidence about her that I admire. She is quick to smile, she really listens to the students, and she doesn't seem to carry much stress around with her - she seems settled.

The only thing about her that I've noticed in a not-so-positive light is her classroom management style. She allows her classes a lot more freedom than I think I would. I don't know if it's because she has been teaching for so long and has set up different priorities or if it's because she doesn't see the kids' behavior as being detrimental to the learning process, but I'm still a little uncomfortable with the way kids act in class. Some of them are too quick with flippant remarks. Comments that are completely off-target and intended to throw off the rhythm of the lesson are far more common than thoughtful responses to questions. Side conversations are happening constantly, kids complain about the learning they're being asked to attempt, and more than once I've seen adults in the room (myself included) summoned with a "Hey!" None of this seems to faze my CT, but it's sending me closer and closer to the ledge.

This difference in our thinking about how students should behave is really causing me to re-think the way I handle classroom management - something I tend to think of as a strong suit of mine. Do I expect too much of students? Am I a hard-ass? Maybe I am, but I don't think I'm ready yet to make apologies for it (though I know for sure that my CT would never expect me to). I think that certain behaviours SHOULD be expected in the classroom, just as certain behaviours should be expected in an office or a restaurant or pretty much anywhere where people come together. There are some basic rules of decency that everyone - not just students but everyone - should be able to follow. If someone is talking, you're listening and if you're talking, we're listening. It's okay to disagree with someone, but it's not okay to dis them. If you have something to say, please think for a moment about whether or not it is going to add to the discussion and don't just talk to give us the privilege of hearing your voice. I'm making an effort to learn your names, you can learn mine and not call my attention by yelling "HEY!"

I took part of the college-bound freshman class this morning. I read "Salvador Late or Early" by Sandra Cisneros (sorry - I can't find a link to the text). I managed to get the kids to settle in and pay attention, but it took a lot more time than I thought was necessary. Yes, we're talking about freshmen. Yes, we're also talking about poetry, and I know that's tough even for a lot of adults to handle, but I was reading aloud and asking them questions - I wasn't asking anything unreasonable of them.

The thing is? I don't expect everyone to dive headfirst with wild enthusaism into everything we do. I am very practical and realistic about the fact that most people do not share my love of this subject. What I DO expect, though, is for you to not be a disruption. You don't want to participate? Fine; I can't make you. I am merely there to hold open the door - you get to decide whether you walk through it. What's important to remember, though, is that you don't get to block anyone else's way, either.


Blogger Kizz said...

I agree that there are certain behavioral expectations that ought to be met. I'm surprised that your CT isn't looking for those, too. I don't think it's unrealistic to expect it of kids but I do guess that it's unrealistic to expect that it's actually happening in schools. The one thing that would, for sure, send me over the edge is being summoned with a "HEY!" I would go. off. My experience here in NY is that even super low income trouble making kids wouldn't do that unless they were trying to get a rise out of you, these kids all go with a generic "Miss?" and never bother to learn your name at all. I don't mind that, at least it's respectful and if they like me they'll learn my name. My name isn't hey, no one's name is hey and no one should respond when called that unless you're summoning them from under a falling safe.

February 02, 2006 2:31 PM  
Blogger vanx said...

As a parent of a 16-year old and a 13-year old (and a 7-year old, that's it), I'm 100% behind your approach.
Good luck with the Brian Turner poems. They will definitely appeal
to high school students (ie get them interested in poetry and away from all that science and math).


February 02, 2006 2:34 PM  
Anonymous claudia said...

I don't know how much it will help,but seemed to have some pretty sound advice,that may help to address the behavioer problems. While it is geared toward much younger children,the suggestions seem sound. I was looking into information about boys and girls being treated differently in schools when I found it.

February 02, 2006 5:33 PM  

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