What’s a poor teacher to do?

I’m looking for a little help with this.  Maybe some of you can be of assistance.

I’m a teacher.  My job is to take my vast array of knowledge and help impart it onto my students.  But, it’s not good practice to stand in front of a classroom and lecture.  (And most of the time I agree with this)  In order to help students develop skills, they must be actively engaged in their learning – doing something.  Right.  Ok.  I’m down with that.

So in my English 9 class, that’s what I’ve been trying to do….practice the Writing Process by actually using the process to write.  Sounds great, huh?  They do the writing, they get feedback on the writing, they revise the writing.  They get more feedback.  They take what they’ve learned and do it again and again until they’re akin to Shakespeare or King or at least Danielle Steele.  And, I’m a rockstar.

But – here’s my conundrum – what happens when the students don’t DO.  They don’t write the draft.  Or, they start it (three or four sentences worth) and instead of finishing it for homework, the paper serves as the napkin for the greasy poptart that gets left in the bottom of the locker.  What am I supposed to do with that, people?  How can I help them improve their writing if they don’t write?

And I know I’m not the only one.  My BFF Jeanday is teaching AP  English where the students have to read.  How can she help them improve their reading comprehension and analysis skills if they aren’t reading?

And yet, our omniscient government has decided that, ultimately, if my students don’t show improvement in their writing from August to May then the logical conclusion is that I’m a sucky teacher.  Sure.  That makes sense.

This is such a logically sound concept that the state (and maybe the Nation – I’m not sure because instead of keeping up on the news I’m hounding freshmen about turning in their homework) is going to make us teachers link ourselves specifically to students to determine our level of effectiveness.  Ooh.  I’m all-a-twitter.  I can’t wait for that.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a prediction.  The students at private schools will score better.  Their teachers will be labeled Accomplished and Effective because of the students’ scores.  What the general populous doesn’t realized, however, is that private schools have the luxury of only educating the students they want to educate.  You cause problems?  Go to public school.  You don’t excel?  Go to public school.  You don’t care about your education?   Go to public school….where the scores are lower because the teachers are crappy.  And then we will draw the conclusion that public schools in America are ineffective.

Yeah, there’s no secondary agenda going on there.  Not at all.  It’s not like the proponents of education-for-profit are trying to undermine public schools in this country.  Not at all.

As a serf in the machine of public education who actually cares about doing something significant, maintaining a shred of integrity and striving for excellence, how do I deal with the clustermuck that the legislators have created for me?

I’m hoping you can take the time to think about it and give me a good answer.  For now, I’ve got a freshman to badger about turning in an essay.


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8 Responses to What’s a poor teacher to do?

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    I have no solution for you, but I do empathize with you. I cringe everytime I read an article about linking teachers’ pay to kids’ performances or one that blames the teachers for poor test scores. It drives me crazy, and I’m not even a teacher (though I have plenty of teachers in my family).

    Of course, teachers can have an impact. But only so much. The rest HAS to start at home. To expect teachers alone to educate our children is crazy. Parents must assume responsibility, and that includes checking in with them every night to discuss upcoming assignments, quiz/test results, homework, etc. And at least once a week the parent should sit down with the child and look through his or her work with him/her. A parent can take an active part in their child’s education without being a helicopter parent, because that, of course, is a whole other topic.

    So, I guess my point is, I feel your pain. Better go eat some chocolate. You can work out with Jillian when you’re done.

  2. Don’t give up and provide lots of choices in topics and genres. Make it as fun as you can.
    Here’s a memorable writing assignment I did. I had read an article about the founder of Geox and a line in the article was “Can you change the world with a pair of shoes?” I had the kids brainstorm all the different kinds of shoes- we listed them on the board, then they had to write a story using one of the kinds, and somewhere in the story the above line had to appear.
    I had great responses across all genres. Give assignments you wouldn’t mind doing yourself.
    I had kids review the new books in the library and make posters about them using a variety of advertising techniques. email me,happy to give more ideas. Good luck!

    • valleygirl96 says:

      Thanks for the ideas. My friend Jeanday and I do regularly brainstorm to come up with fun and creative assignments. Unfortunately some of the kids are even resistant to our creativity and charm. Hard to believe, I know. 😉

  3. This is so tough. I feel for you, really. I am not a teacher, but I see what some kids do and do not do. I wish teachers had more power, more authority over the kids. I wish all parents took an active part in their children’s lives, but they do not. I’m sorry. I hope you find solutions and ways to motivate.

  4. javaj240 says:

    I hate NCLB. I hate AYP. I was on my local BOE when this crap first came down the pike.it sucked then and it sucks now. I agree that there is a secondary agenda here. Like standardized testing, which I also hate, I wish that school systems, teacher’s unions, and parents would just say no to all of this bullshit. But they won’t. Because it is all, ultimately, tied to funding formulas. Honestly, the teacher’s union is one of the last bastions of union strength left in America. They need to take up the gauntlet. And teacher’s need to make them do it.

    That’s the only solution I have been able to come up with. I’ve been thinking about it for years, LOL.

    • valleygirl96 says:

      I totally agree – yet, lawmakers are continuing to villanize the unions (as well as teachers). What other professionals who have completed 4-6 years or more of higher education are treated with such disrespect and disdan?

  5. javaj240 says:

    Lawmakers villainizing unions are an old story. Ultimately, they can villainize unions and slam “greedy” teachers all they want, but at the end of the day you all pay your dues and they should help you fight for what is right, for you and for the students. I really think this is the only way things will change. Teachers will only get the respect that they deserve if they fight for it. It stinks. But, it’s the only way to go.

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