Monday, January 12, 2009

Student Teacher, Part 6

As my second class flowed in from the hall, I gazed out the window and saw Miss Tygart, bundled in overcoat and head scarf, slowly making her way across the slushy parking lot toward her car. Abandoned, I did my best to look like someone comfortable while in command.

Midway through taking attendance, control began to slip away.
"Karp?" I read from the ledger.
No answer.
"Mr. Karp?" I repeated. "Russell Karp?"
Giggling. Snorting. Heads turning toward the center of the room where sat a tall, muscular boy, with a vicious grin. The previous day, I had assigned him the name Trouble.
"Oh, yeah, here!" he said. "But I'd rather not be!"
Guffaws all around.
The lesson on Chapter 6 began badly and deteriorated from there. These were the not-so-bright kids, and few of them had even read the Cliffs Notes, let alone the book. Writing some of the names of characters on the blackboard, I detected mischief and quickly turned to see some paper missile flying across the room. Feeling desperate, I tried to conjure up some image of teachers from my own schooling who had captured my elusive attention, and an idea occurred to me. These kittens needed to be captivated by a ball on a string. I had to make myself a diversion.

So, when I began to summarize the chapter, necessary because no one had read it, I walked around the room, pausing every so often at someone's desk, perhaps grabbing someone's notebook or one of their books and examining it as I spoke, picking up the waste can and moving it, behaving in a confusing manner inconsistent with front-of-the-room teaching. This, I knew, would only work until the kittens became bored and began chasing and tumbling again, but it got me through to the end of the period.

But what about tomorrow? And the next day? What could I possibly do to get these kids interested in their schoolwork? How could I handle the truly defiant students, like Russell Karp? As it would turn out, getting them interested would be much easier then dealing with Mr. Trouble.


Anonymous said...

At least Miss Tygert had the sense to get out of the classroom when she did. It seems to me too many teachers drag it out for personal reasons long after they care enough to be capable of "bringing out the best" in their students. On the other hand, older teachers may well be at a settled point in their own lives and because of their life's experiences, better able to inspire and perhaps pass on a bit of wisdom with the crap that alot of us remember having to learn in high school (thank you Paul Simon).

Park Burroughs said...

It is difficult for people who have never taught to understand just how exhausting teaching can be. It's no wonder teachers burn out so early.
I remember quite a few years ago when several dissidents were elected to the board of one of our local school districts and wrested control. One of these newly elected directors was alarmed that teachers had free periods. He thought they should be teaching for eight hours with a break for lunch only, because that's what they're paid to do.

Anonymous said...

I was a substitute teacher in my local inner-city schools. Not exactly the same as full time, but in some ways maybe at least as difficult. I frequently covered special ed classes and also all other subjects in grades K-12. I am certainly not suggesting teachers shouldn't get free periods. It just seems to me that when teachers know they are burned out, for their students sake, they should move on. Even administraters can't fire a bad teacher.
I also have two children in a suburban school at present and have seen the effect that various teachers, good and bad, young and old, have had on them. No one should be guaranteed a job forever just as no one should have to spend all of their off-time preparing for their jobs.
I'd like to add that looking at my childrens' school calender, the only month they attend school all month is March and even then they have a half day on a Friday.
There is certainly alot more to childhood than school; but, for teachers, in reality, with the whole summer off, they should realize that they are fortunate to have jobs with so much time to themselves, and better than average benefits.
Just like every other occupation there are good and bad teachers. Thankfully there are plenty of good ones and an attentive student will even learn from the bad.