Teaching isn’t Just About Helping Students Pass Classes

20151009_161154I appear to have passed the initial teacher test, the unspoken one given to me by my students: the “are you really going to stick around?” one.

I know they will always test their limits with me, but at least now it isn’t with the trivial stuff. No more complaining about having to go be a student-teacher aid after breakfast, no more leaving basketballs lying around, instead of putting them away, no more griping about warmups or stretching, etc.

Now it’s a new test that feels like level two of the authority figure game, a test of how firm but fair I’ll be. My middle schoolers often whine about every last PE class activity; they only want to do casual volleyball or basketball–recess style. Yes, I know they miss recess, but that structureless energy-burn doesn’t help them grow as much as learning and trying out various sports does. They need their lives enriched.

As far as my high schoolers go, my Arizona History class gave their first ever homework assignment in about two years the look of death. We ran out of time during the week and, with only two hours per week slotted for history class time, I couldn’t afford to roll lessons over to next week. Long story short: two out of the five did the work.

Shirking work is a theme. Most of them don’t have a good example to follow, so they don’t know any better. Parents don’t care and live paycheck to paycheck, so the kids don’t care and are being set up to follow suit. I’m sure some haven’t thought beyond living with their parents the rest of their lives. I hope I can help all the seniors before they graduate.

So… I’ve come to learn that teaching isn’t just about teaching. It also includes managing a classroom, and with an eclectic collection of students, that’s no easy feat.

My boss has armed me with two books, Before You can Discipline and You Can Handle Them All. My dad has also pointed me to Harry K. Wong’s The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher. I’ve got a lot of reading ahead but I’m pacing myself out to better absorb every last morsel of information.

I’ve been warned and accept that there always will be difficult students but I’m game for it. Even with what little I know, my students are embracing the routine, so much so that my PE class starts their warmup laps before I say anything, and then circle up for stretches without complaint. Even though I have to prod several to do the stretches correctly, the positive changes are pretty darn cool.

The battle with YouTube still continues but I’ve politely called out the IT for being more of an “IT”. Websites are supposed to be blocked but the students figured out that all they had to do was type in the http, etc. part to bypass it. We’ve also got new computers, all but two still sitting in their boxes because “the chat program for the online classes doesn’t work with Windows 10.” I have a student who brought his own desktop computer in from home that has been using Windows 10 without issue all year… Hmm.

The rest is in my boss’s hands now.

All that aside, I’m trying to figure out what motivates my students individually. Several of them have esteem issues where they’d rather do no work because they believe they’re dumb and can’t do it. A couple others simply don’t care and are just counting down to graduation day/year. I’m wracking my brains for solutions on how to help them see value in all the work they’re doing, so any tips and suggestions would be most welcome! I want every last one of them to succeed.

At least, so far, I’ve got this (which I’m super excited about):



About Angela Macala-Guajardo

Author, teacher, soon-to-be full time writer for two companies. Also a lover life in the Arizona desert, puppy butt wiggles, and kitties purring away on my shoulder.
This entry was posted in classroom management, helping students, love of teaching, teaching and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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