I have been so exhausted this week that I took a two hour nap today, and because of that, and also because of my extreme frustration, I can’t get to sleep.
I have come to the conclusion today that a lot of the issues I have with behavior stem from the fact that many of my students simply don’t believe that what I have to say is important to them. It’s not necessarily that they don’t like math, or that they think the work is boring. Kids will be quiet, even when bored, if they think that the consequence of not being quiet outweighs the incentive to do whatever it is that’s on their mind at the moment. Most of my students, even the well-intentioned ones, have no idea what sustained, rigorous academic work is. Their bar for what constitutes reasonable effort and self-motivation is so low that it’s hard to get the vast majority of my students to do anything that’s not spoonfed to them.
I’m not hitting it out of the park with any of my classes, but I am having a hell of a time teaching my last period class, because about half of the kids in that class come to my room just to chill out all period. Most of the other half want to learn, but will gladly join the fray of kids who are off-task, rather than standing up to them. I gave them possibly the easiest quiz I have ever given on Friday, and the class managed to average barely 30%. The past two periods with them, I have given up after a half an hour of trying to get them silent enough that I can instruct them, and told them, “fine, if what I have to teach you is not important enough for you to listen silently, then you can do the worksheet on your own. It’s due at the end of the period. Best of luck to you.” Only a couple of kids can do it on their own, and everyone else is receiving failing grades each day. The hope is that eventually, the kids who actually care about their grades will get tired of failing on account of the jackasses, and will stand up for themselves. Unfortunately, I will probably have to find a different strategy, because only a handful of the kids in that class actually seem to care at all.
I wish I had a video camera so anyone–you, my adminstration, the students’ peers, their parents, or anyone else–could see the things these kids do and the vileness that comes out of their mouths. It is unreal. Honestly, I the chunk of students in that class that drives the insanity is comprised of individuals who are deeply miserable and don’t see a future for themselves. So why would the bother trying? In their heads, they won’t pass anyway, and even if they did put in the effort to pass, they don’t honestly see themselves going anywhere. But in the meantime, before the hammer finally drops, they’re going to party like there’s no tomorrow.
I am at a complete loss as to what to do to motivate these kids, and they are ruining the education of the one’s who come wanting to learn. I can’t kick all 10 unruly, disillusioned kids out on a daily basis, but when they’re in the room, they are absolute toxic, especially in combination. It’s so sad though, because the kids who come wanting to learn show respect in little ways, like putting all the chairs up at the end of class. It’s almost like they’re saying, “I know you’re trying Mr. Johnson. I’m not learning anything, but at least I’ll respect the environment.”
Honestly, part of the problem is that it’s okay to show up to my school and do no work. If I ran a school, rule number one would be that you work hard, always, no excuses. Not working would be considered the a serious behavior infraction, and I think most of the more serious issues would be mitigated.
The most bizarre part about this whole experience is that I feel like in some twisted way, my experience mirrors those of my students. To a large extent, almost every day, I feel like a failure and like my task is impossible, and it makes me want to give up. I don’t think I can put in four years of effort pissed away. I wonder how many of them can, who feel like their effort is misspent. I guess the difference is that if I don’t come back, I’ve got other options.