Tuesday, February 23, 2010

They Don't Really Do Nothing

This thread over at Core Knowledge turned into a more abstract philosophical debate on building an intrinsic appreciation of education in one's students. I'm glad I read all the way through the comments, because I needed it after the conversation I had with some of my kiddies today.

A few kids were complaining about teachers issuing empty threats. Now, as a longtime NYC Educator groupie, I know that issuing empty threats is one of the surest ways to corrode any possible authority you might have in your classroom, so it's something I strenuously avoid. I issued them some blanket immunity, so to speak, and asked them if they'd be willing to discuss the matter of motivation to behave well and work hard further with me. They agreed.

One thing I learned, from my student Sha Sha the averagest girl in the world, is that calling home makes no difference to her. She said this with a very simple honesty. If a teacher calls home, she said, her parents might mention it to her. But that's all. "They don't really do nothing," she explained helpfully.

"Or," chimed in Jackie, "you beat them home and erase the teacher's message." (This is why I tend to try work and cell numbers first.)

"I'm STILL trying to figure out my mom's voicemail password," said Nikki, as if she were offended that her mom hadn't just told her the PIN straight up.

Later, while talking with a colleague, we were despairing about the dramatic fall-off in motivation we had begun to notice in the past week or two that is reaching its nadir now. The Morton School has sent home two report cards and identified Promotion-in-Doubts. So our kiddies (because they're anything but dumb) have already figured out that if they've managed at least 2s on the predictive assessments and passed the first 2 marking periods, they're pretty much home free. They are starting to check out.

I don't have any answers on this, just questions and doubts and anxieties. I'm not sure my relationships with my students this year are as good as they were last year, when the kids stuck with me practically until the last day of school. I don't know if I can count on gentle persuasion and my winning personality to keep them working this year. So I, along with many of you from the looks of things, am on the search for answers.
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