I am pretty hard on substandard teachers. I am pretty hard on kids who are lazy and/or disrespectful.
I am just pretty hard in general because I know that some students and some teachers can give more than they already give. I have extremely high expectations but they are not unattainable, not unreasonable.
There are many high points I’ve had the opportunity to witness, experiences that might be lost on a substitute teacher just passing through. Here are a few:
* A student who has a reputation of being hot-tempered excused himself from the class even before the class started. I gave him some time outside. A friend of his asked me quietly if he could go check on him. I told him I appreciated his concern and I was sure his friend did too but there was another friend out there with him. When he returned, the friend tried to tell the self-excused friend a story. I said to him, “You want to help out your friend? You help him with what he just missed in class.” He nodded and proceeded to tutor him.
* Another kid who was problematic for previous substitute teachers was able to tutor another kid sitting next to him. Sometimes all it takes is a simple, “Wow, you know how to do that already? Can you teach this student how to do number five?”
* When I subbed for a science class, there was a kid who didn’t quite fit in with the older, louder kids in class and I was afraid he might get picked on. He was quoting Monty Python and acting out some scenes to the confusion of the rest of the class. But he was never picked on while I was there. A boy who had a backpack full of cookies, Sprite, and chips even shared his cookie stash. (Don’t ask me about the backpack. I was perplexed too.)
* I am greeted by name almost a dozen times a day when I’m walking to class. I try not to go all soft and say, “AWWW!” but instead nod. Sometimes I wave.
* When a student I’ve previously subbed for sees me in a class of a different class, they tell me I’m trying to be someone else as in, “You were my sub in Spanish. Why are you teaching Japanese?” This morning it was, “Are you trying to be a math teacher? You just subbed basketball.” I always reply, “What can I say? I had great teachers.”
The longer I am at this high school, the more teenagers are starting to grow on me. Don’t tell them I said that though. I am beginning to think less that teenagers are obnoxious because they want to be heard; rather I am beginning to think more that teenagers just need someone to listen.
The kids that I teach now are not the same kids with whom I went to school when we were obedient, silent, and always respectful no matter what. These kids now are a couple generations of learning after me.
This generation is fast and intuitive. This is the Facebook-Twitter-Instagram-Etcetera generation. This is not the generation for which I prepared to teach when I was in grad school. This generation did not exist; this generation was not yet born.
And yet some educators continue to teach like there are dozens of ME in the class. We don’t exist anymore. At least not here in the US.
When this generation understands a concept, they will do two problems, max. Why would they do more? They already understand it. Gone are the days when we did forty problems to practice. When this generation doesn’t understand something, they don’t go to the library and pore over a musty card catalog. They hop on the internet and use search engines like Wikipedia, Google, and YouTube to find the answers. I worked my butt off in college to get mediocre grades in science. I spent hours in the libary not even enjoying the books housed in that magnificent building but rather the expensive textbooks that ate up an enormous chunk of my savings.
I am old school and am baffled that this generation doesn’t do things the way I used to. But at the same time, I have to realize that I need to change as well. When I studied for the CSET in General Science this summer, I found a website from someone who studying for same test and uploaded all of her notes. I didn’t solely use this site to study but it was a great stepping stone for the rest of my studying. I wonder if this generation appreciates this. I wonder if they even care. Do they?
As this generation changes and adapts to our technology, our norms will change as well. Our standards for everything will be higher. More research. Longer term papers. More intense exams. This generation will be able to do more in a faster amount of time than any generation before.
And what ever for?
When they get to my age, the overlying message is SLOW DOWN.
One day we’ll figure it all out. Hopefully it won’t take a status update or a Tweet to do so.