Monday, June 23, 2014

Statement of Purpose

There's something about the picture on the left that really touches me. When you think of all the kids who've driven you crazy over the years, especially the ones who were really good at it, it's sometimes hard to understand why. I always say it's their job.

For me, it's easy to forgive kids. The one who caused me the most trouble this year ended up with a 90 average. This kid was particularly perplexing because the behavior simply did not match the very high test average I kept seeing.

You have to remember, I guess, that as a high school teacher you see the kids for a short time, but whatever troubles them follows them home, and everywhere else. You hope that in some small way you've touched them, or relieved whatever troubles them. You can't always know. Unless of course, you're running your room like this:

Personally, I find that painful to watch. I suppose this is the logical conclusion of David Coleman's contention that no one gives a damn how you feel or what you have to say. I guess it's a lot cleaner to have routines like these and rapid-fire drills than it is to run a classroom like I do. I'm sure with my classroom style I could never prepare, say, the North Korean Army. On the other hand, I'd be horrified if my kid (or yours) were in a classroom like that in the video. And, of course, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Andrew Cuomo, and John King don't put their kids in classrooms like that either.

I teach teenagers, who frequently complain about how much their lives suck. I try to tell them that their lives will only get better, and that being a teenager is likely the most painful part of life for everyone. I'm lucky to be teaching ESL, because I can promise them the quality of their lives will improve if they can learn what I have to offer. I aim to have maximum spontaneous participation without lapsing into absolute chaos, and that's a tough goal. Optimally, I'm kind of just on the edge.

I don't want my kids to be little memorizing martinets. I don't want them to clap and jump at prearranged intervals. I don't want them to spend my class like that, and I particularly don't want them to spend their lives like that.

I want them know that life is unpredictable, full of surprises, full of joy. I want them to know they have a shot at a happy life. I want them to know that whatever bothers them can pass and that they can fix it, bypass it, or overcome it.

It's just awful what these places, these tests, these fanatical ideologues want to do to our children. If we can stop it in any small way, it's well worth doing what we do.
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