As a teacher, I am constantly, every day surprised by what is difficult for my students. Things should be difficult, and it should challenge them to try and to become even more than they are. Afterall, anything worth learning should be hard, it should challenge thoughts and motivations, learning should spark more questions. But I see students struggling ALL THE TIME, and instead of being motivated by the struggle, they ignore it – they choose the Fixed mindset when we work so hard to choose Growth. They choose less than mediocrity in order to not be bothered.
All the time. Every day, every moment of every class period at least 1, probably more like 15, students are struggling just to sit still long enough to understand what they’re expected to do. Those same students are struggling not only to pay attention to the details of directions, but they’re also struggling to fit in socially, or if they’re socially adept, their entire focus remains on what friends are doing and saying they have no ability to even comprehend why it is they are failing when they haven’t turned a single assignment in all year. These are students that when the entire class is working to complete an activity, they’re making faces across the room, or staring out the window, or are stuck somewhere in their mind, daydreaming about something completely outside of school. School is hard for these kids. Not because they can’t do it or they’re not interested in engaging, but because they really just can’t seem to balance engaging in classroom activities while surrounded by peers. Those who are not engaged with peers or the window, are attempting to get away with playing games on their chromebooks or phones, effectively tuning out not only the academic part of school, but the social aspects as well. What is going on?!
I know that students need to be interested in what is happening in a classroom. Interested in a way that motivates them to be engaged, to come up with and ask questions – I know that students need to feel safe enough in a room of peers and a teacher to ask questions without knowing the answers. I just haven’t figured out how to sustain steadily this sort of engagements on a level which reaches these young individuals with different interests and goals. It’s at worst disheartening, but mostly just exhausting to daily think that I am learning more from them than they are from me. When school begins to feel like glorified babysitting – what needs to change? What should we do?
I don’t have clear answers, but I’m going to keep observing and attempting every day to welcome these kids and thank them for being here (even when met with groans of disappointment or annoyance). I don’t know how not to be sad that I care more about their education than they do. Furthermore, I don’t know how to reverse that motivation within the context of a society that doesn’t clearly value education. Society and pop-culture (nearly one and the same) – value bombastic caricatures of what humanity might be at its most artistic, but is instead so broken. It offers models and idols and promise of fame with zero responsibility – it mainly offers lies that look like happiness. And I’m just tired.
People, we need to change the culture we’re in. Actively engage in changing it. Culture is not some all-encompassing dictator of our human movements – it is built by us! We are the makers and sustainers of culture. How can we change it to be better for these kids? For us?
This is my rant for the day – A bit random, a bit unfinished, but posted anyway – because I may be a bit random and unfinished forever and so I might as well share it with others.
This began last week and ended today and I sadly watched the disengagement overflow into the beautifully ignored pre-summer air – face down in their screens, not even looking into the eyes of the friends mumbling next to them – And how often do I model the same behavior? How about you, friends? Any ideas to change this culture? this zeitgeist that is the culmination of the wonders of technology and the lack of wonder for anything else? Let’s discuss. 🙂