Wednesday, February 22, 2006

They've Gotta Think You Like Them

I was the recipient of some very good advice yesterday, though I'm not entirely sure what to DO with it.

CT and I were sitting in the tiny office she shares with another English teacher when she turned to me and said, "Okay, I'm going to tell you this because I've been at this for 25 years, and it took me a long time to learn it and I want to save you some time. Freshman will only work for you if they think you like them."

Apparently, all grade levels perform better for teachers they feel kindly towards, but this axiom holds particularly true for freshman. Coming from middle schools, freshmen are used to being coddled and treated kindly, CT said, and they often don't know how to function independently. The idea that "you're in high school now and the rules are different" doesn't seem to sink in until at least sophomore year - if even then - and the key to getting 9th graders to produce is to give them the impression that they're your favorites.

I was out of the period 4 classroom on Monday and CT told me that they'd expressed relief to have her back as their teacher. It seems that they don't think I like them.

To be fair to me - and to them - I didn't come to them under the best of circumstances. I arrived, unannounced and in the middle of a week, and almost immediately started leading their class. There was almost no transition to speak of. Add to that the fact that they'd been disintegrating as a class since the semester break back at Christmas, and CT was starting to crack back down on the expectations for classroom behaviour. I was in on that process and my theory is because my appearance coincided with the reestablishment of order, they've decided that I don't like them.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. While I may not KNOW them very well, I do like them. And I'm SO proud of the work they did with the Hamlet unit! When I was back in class yesterday, I made a point of telling them that I'd been bragging about them to everyone I know (and even to people I DON'T know) since Friday - that I think they did truly remarkable work when asked to do things that are usually only asked of upper classmen and freshmen in college, and that I'm really excited to be working with them.

I'm hoping that helps but, short of being more expressive of my enthusiasm for being with them, I'm not sure what else I can (or should) do.


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