Sometimes, as educators, we need to be real about the week and the job that we do. I’ve had quite a week, and I’d like to share so that you may take solace in my frustrations and my celebrations.
(me and my new doughnut friend)
On Monday I was excited for the week. I had an observation lined up with my DC; I had a friend out in LA scheduled to video-chat in with my Creative Writing class (we are studying TV script writing, and he has worked in television); and my graphic novel class was working on group presentations, taken as an assessment grade. It was a shaping up to be a big week.
Needless to say, not everything went as planned.
My friend Ryan Budds (www.triviawithbudds.com) did Skype in on Wednesday at 7:00 A.M. LA time, which I greatly appreciated, but we could not get the Google Hangout to work, which killed 15 minutes, and moved us to Skype, which worked well, but with 15 minutes wasted, we only had 30 minutes with him. I showed him the class, passing my laptop across the front of the room, but when we chatted, while he was on the projector screen in my room, on camera, Ryan and I chatted one-on-one over the video stream.
As we chatted, the majority of my students were into the discussion and listened intently. But scanning the room, I saw about ten of my kids on their phones or tablets, pretty much the entire time, not giving a damn. I did not let Ryan know, and I was not going to pause our conversation to yell at some kids. Our conversation went to the bell; we thanked Ryan, and the kids left, leaving me to the rest of the day.
But that bothered me all day, into the evening, and even the next morning. I asked advice, and it came. Teachers and friends had all sorts of ideas of how I should handle it, from yelling…to shaming…to ignoring.
Here’s what I did: I had a brief (2 minute) discussion with my kids, expressing disappointment and worry about how some of them conducted themselves during the Skype call. Three of them were on their phones as I was having this discussion.
Second semester seniors are a thing, for sure.
I did not yell or raise my voice. I understand that some of these kids have seven classes, six of which they don’t care a lick about…my class possibly being one of those. However, I think my honest tone was well received, and with any luck, I changed a couple of attitudes.
That Creative Writing class is second period. My first period is a Film & Lit class. A Film & Lit class filled with only 17 seniors, most of whom do not care about getting to class on time. As of Friday, I have had over 70 individual tardies and over 15 unexcused class absences, in that one class. The kids are great, but that is ridiculous. And this is what I had to deal with before that partially lethargic 2nd period. I stress PARTIALLY; most of the students are in it to win it! But it makes for an, at times, stressful morning.
On the complete flip of all of that, was my observation. My Graphic Novel class is a strange mix of personalities that consists of close to 75% dudes, many of whom are friends. There is a lot of loud joking and teasing all the time, but they are into the content. This is the class that was being observed on Wednesday, and I was excited for my DC to watch the crazy class of comics fans.
I might be exaggerating when I say this, but this might have been the best observation of my career. The kids’ presentations were amazing: well thought out, assembled, and prepared. I sat on a counter in my classroom and just watched. I did not see one student in the room on their phone, falling asleep, or working on something else. They were into the presentations, to the point of responding and participating. It was dope. I didn’t even mention that I was being observed, seriously. They were great. I had a blast. How many times can we say that we had a blast during a classroom observation, right?? The stress usually overtakes the fun parts.
It’s been a week. I’m happy that I get to reflect on my frustrations and success with you all. Remember, this job is one of the most difficult in the world; we are dealing with 150 developing brains a day…yikes.
I look forward to our future conversations! I’ll be at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle in a couple of weeks and C2E2 in Chicago the weekend after that. If you are in the area, hit me up! Let’s chat classroom.