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Why do you teach?

7 Jan

Why do you teach?

Is your goal to make sure each of your students learns the geographic impact on the rise and fall of major empires throughout world history?  Must all of your students understand the value of finding the limit of a function?  Do your students need to be able to explain how the architecture of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells suggests a common origin?

These are all worthy goals, to be sure.  As educators, we are passionate about our subject areas.  Naturally, we would love for our students to love them as well.  Not many things could make me more proud than for a student of mine to go on to do great things in biology. 

Realistically, I know that most of my students will never have a career even remotely related to biology.  Do our goals as teacher’s need to include covering the subject matter?  Of course!  That is what teaching, fundamentally, is.  Yet I fear that many teachers get bogged down at this level of education and never consider what other things they can be accomplishing at the same time.

Perhaps Chris at Practical Theory illustrates this sentiment best–

For four years, kids share their lives with us. We see them grow up through some of the craziest times of their lives, and if we are lucky, we get to have some small impact on them. Within the context of f(x) = x -3 and Newton’s Laws and Their Eyes Were Watching God, we learn about each other, and we touch each other’s lives, and then they move on, and we have a new group of kids who we have to care for with the same energy and passion and dedication as we cared for the kids who just left. It is a bit twisted, really, but it’s kind of amazing too.

Amazing barely begins to describe it!  I think some teachers are scared of this aspect of the job, and thus it limits their teaching to strictly focusing on the academics.  Maybe they think it’s inappropriate to have fun with kids, to get to know them, to spend time with them as people.  Maybe they are uncomfortable trying.  Maybe they are worried that they are incompetent in this area, and thus they simply don’t try.  Yet, kids often don’t care what you know until they know you care

Teaching isn’t just about academics.  Maybe it should be, and maybe it shouldn’t.  I suppose that’s a whole ‘nother debate.  What I do know is that I choose to look at it differently.  Not only am I fortunate enough to have the opportunity to share my love of biology with teenagers, but I’m blessed to get to be a part of their lives.  And also blessed that they get to be a part of mine.

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Kids and Social Media Dangers

6 Jan

I found this YouTube video courtesy of Michael at Passionate Teaching.  The video demonstrates some of the dangers of kids using social media.  Honestly, it’s a good reminder for us adults, too.  As Michael at Passionate Teaching stated, I urge you to watch it.  Try to find a way to incorporate it into class or suggest to your administration to present it at an assembly or something similar.  The video is very creepy and downright disturbing, but it’s extremely effective.

Like, OMG, why are you so rude?

20 Nov

I’ve listened to my co-workers complain all year about how rude, snotty, mean-spirited, and lazy the students at our school are.  At first, I was puzzled.  Compared to my previous workplace (which was rife with drugs, sex, and violence), the students here are angels.  They are engaged in learning, seek their teachers out for extra help when it’s needed, are polite, and are just generally extremely fun to teach.

I wish I could remain under this enchantment, but I’m starting to understand some of my co-workers complaints.  Over the past few days I have witnessed several students (none of my own, thankfully) being rude, mean-spirited, and just generally acting like JERK FACES. 

Instance #1: While helping a fellow teacher  set up for a lab activity in her class, one of the senior boys, Jimmy, who had chosen his lab table called out to another boy, “Hey Peter!  Come over here.  Peter!  Peter!  Over here.”  Peter most definitely heard Jimmy asking him to be his partner.  Peter pretended not to hear and joined another table with much cooler boys.  I’m not one to let things like this slide, so I glance up at Peter and say coolly, “Come on, man.  You’re going to ignore Jimmy?  He’s been calling you for the past minute.  Not cool.”  Peter’s face turned red, and the teacher, also perturbed, then switched all the groups herself.  (Fortunately we have a good enough relationship that she didn’t mind me butting in.)

Instance #2: During one of my break periods today, I could hear some girls conversing in the science room next door very loudly before class began.  The conversation went something like this:

“Oh my god, you will not BELIEVE what happened.  Mrs. Robertson came into the bathroom when I was in there, and she STARTED TALKING TO ME!  I HATE when teachers do that.  I’m like, why are you talking to me?  Yeah, she said, ‘Hi, Bethany, how are you?’  We’re in the bathroom.  Oh, and then she TOUCHED my shoulder!  Ugh, I know!  I’m like, what are you a perv?”

I very nearly marched in there to proclaim, “Yes, clearly a teacher being friendly to you and speaking to you as if you are an actual person is clearly out of line!”  Somehow I restrained myself.  The teacher she was talking about is, incidentally, known as one of the kindest, most soft-spoken teachers on our campus. 

mean teens

Mean Teens

Instance #3:  While walking down the hall during the same off-period, some students were sitting in the hall (allowable, as it was their study hall period).  I overhear one young man say rather loudly, “I pay $25000 a year to go to this damn school.  Why should I care about the freakin’ rules?”  I stopped and slowly (and rather dramatically) turned around and stared him down.  One of his friends noticed me and started hitting him in the shoulder, whispering, “Language, dude, language!”  I simply shook my head, and turned back around saying, “No, not just language, guys.  Attitude, too.  Language AND attitude.”  After witnessing this last display of teenage snobbery, I was feeling quite ill-tempered.  I returned to my room and vented about the behavior of the students in all of these stories to a colleague. 

Then something unexpected happened.  The young man from instance #3 appeared at my door and apologized profusely and sincerely.  I suppose there is always hope for the next generation after all.  🙂

(As a humorous aside, when I was looking for images related to “apology” and “sorry” to include in this post, Tiger Woods kept showing up.)

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