I haven’t written in a long while. Partly because technology hasn’t been playing nice with me, but mostly because this has been a really challenging school year.
Some of it has been challenging in a good way.
I found some new ways of teaching that I thought would really impact my students. I love a good project, so I jumped in. But, a project X 36 weeks or X 180 days quickly swells to the proportion of a part-time job. No complaints. I willingly took this all on and the benefits I’m seeing are worth surrendering my out-of-classroom time for. I’ve just learned that I have to allow myself to crash on Saturdays and Sundays in order to function again by Monday. Hopefully as this year winds down I’ll be in a better position for next year.
The other reason this year has been difficult is the group of kiddos I’ve been dealt. I started the year with 20. And they are so hard!
A little background: I always seat my students in tables. Usually the last few weeks of the school year I’ll have to scoot them apart to curb their talking, but last year they were able to handle it all the way to the end. Three years ago (this group of kids) lasted in tables until February or March.
My kids this year…made it to the 2nd day of school. On the very first day of school I had 6 that I would have kept in from recess if they had had similar behaviors later in the year. By the end of the first week of school we were on our 4th seating arrangment.
19 kids. 10 behavior problems. The odds are NOT in my favor!
But the thing is, I like these kids. They’re (mostly) really lovable. No one is throwing a tantrum, bolting out the door, or vandalizing. They just have the attention spans of poorly trained seagulls. And they’re about as quiet.
It’s made me a better teacher. I’ve learned to let go of some things and hold tighter to others. I’ve learned how to get to the heart of the lesson in record time, how to use classroom structure to my advantage, how to better scaffold learners, and have researched several topics I wouldn’t have otherwise learned about. We meditate now. That’s new. And we learn how our brains work and how to make “mindful” choices.
But daily I am the eye of a category 5 hurricane.
With less than 2 months left of school, the problems are not better. The hard kids are still hard. Academically they’re almost all on target. But it’s not much of an accomplishment since most of them started the year on grade-level. My nights of worry come from the fact that these children are broken.
Our last parent-teacher conference was a couple weeks ago. I tried, yet again, to express to parents how serious my concerns are. Attention spans lasting 27 seconds (I timed), no clear sense of where they are in space and how to move when not anchored to an object, slowly falling behind in reading because comprehending a novel requires much more effort than a picture book, lack of number sense, the constant need for sensory input, treating interactions with other students as an incessant video game…
And from the parents I got comments like, “I was just like that when I was a kid. I turned out okay.” Sure, if by okay you mean homeless. “You just need to make lessons more fun.” Guess what, no lesson is going to be as fun as the (rated M) video game you let your kid play for hours at night. “She’s just a hard kid.” Great. That’s what I’ll tell the victims she’s bullying. I’m sure they’ll understand.
I was praying before school the other morning and I had the thought, “You can’t fix them.” It’s true. I can’t fix them.
More importantly, I can’t go to their homes and force the parents to make their children a priority. I can’t make them care enough to research and experiment with solutions. I can’t even make them realize that there are real problems.
I’ve taught plenty of kids that I couldn’t fix. I don’t know why this group has me so frustrated and sad. Maybe because I can see so easily what their parents should do and I’m so angry that they don’t. No parent is perfect, but why is it okay that they don’t even care to try? Unfortunately, except for the chronic lice problem, none of this neglect is even technically “neglect.”
I can’t fix them.
I can’t fix them.
I can’t fix them.
I’m trying not to assume that any of these people want to be bad parents, but frankly they’re not making much of a case for anything else. Indifference is toxic. Ignorance is unexcussable. Doing something because that’s how you were raised is laziness. Increased devotion to a failing system is weakness.
My faith tells me that while I can’t fix them, the Savior can. But I’m finding it so hard right now to say that that’s enough of a solution.