Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oh for the love of Wednesdays.

It is currently 6:55 pm. I have been in my house for approximately 40 minutes. I didn't leave school until about 5:45 pm. And 5:30 pm was about the first time today since around 7:00 am that I was alone. Like, alone alone.

You see, as I have covered in this blog before, Wednesdays are my long days with no prep period. And today was the additional element of the TLC class I'm teaching to other teachers. And that is just long. Just long!

There were some moments of win, though. My AP kids, for some reason, on this essay they're writing right now, they're being less needy and are begging for my help a bit less. This is certainly progress, but I do allow them some leeway in terms of question-asking about this essay because I have to keep reminding myself that we didn't do some of the assignments we did last year that set them up better for research. Thus I think I need to do a little backfilling in how to research. (... it is so wrong that I'm about to admit this, but I miss teaching the junior paper because I miss teaching research in such a meaningful and in-depth way. ::sigh::)

Also, my third period is emerging as my ... cerebral? ... class. Somehow, they just ask these great questions or bring up these great points. I'm lovin' it.

And then there were my fifth period sophomores. I was a bit upset with them because they SUCKED their homework big time last night, BUT their vocabulary stories and poems were really, really, really good for sophomores. I even offered extra credit for writing a rhyming poem (I mean, we're doing Shakespeare, after all!) and some of them just wrote these hilariously weird poems (they didn't have a whole heck of a lot to work with -- their vocab list consists of words like "aggrandize" and "execrable" and "quotidian." LOL. OH SAT words, how you create some hilarious poetry.) One of the poems was about ninjas. Always win. Another about a dictator, based on one of the students in the class. Also win. Then I read them my modernized rendition of Caesar. LOL. It was pretty funny. Then, to explain the difference between the modernized recitation and oral interpretation, I did the Valley Girl interpretation of Hamlet's "To Be or Not To Be." (You know, because I have the first half memorized from AP Lit my senior year. Like you do.) (This freaks the kids out excessively. Nobody MEMORIZES things any more! Good golly!) And then we proceeded on with Shakespeare -- Julius Caesar Act II. Wheeeee.

Also, I found this article today on CNN during my few brief moments of transition time (my kids take FOR-EV-ER to pack up their stuff!) and am very amused by it, to be very honest. Obviously, this is a dramatically bad idea. I mean, at least, in the practical sense: teachers don't go home with the students, therefore how can they really assess the parenting that is going on there? Plus, wow, way to open up teachers to a whole new layer of attack by parents. As if I don't get enough emails already! Now, granted, the idea is for elementary school teachers to grade parents... I can't even IMAGINE the havoc this would wreak if it were to implemented in a high school. Specifically, at my school.

But. Let's say for grins and giggles that this idea were to move forward into a production phase at my school and I got to have input. My oh my would my criteria look vasty different. These are teenagers we're talking about. Firstly, my grade for a parent would be affected by the quantity and tone of their emails. I have no problem with parents emailing me, especially about concerns they have about their students and I have no problem sharing observations. Email is a fabulous tool, but it can also become a weapon. I have problems with parents email me to ask questions that either their student should know the answer to, or to spare their student the hurt, heartbreak, frustration, or whatever they think their kid is going to have to feel by asking me a question they might not like the answer to. (No never mind that it says very clearly on the syllabus that parents sign that I only discuss grades with students and NOT parents.)

Email also allows parents (well, anyone really, but obviously it is the nature of the profession) to say things that they wouldn't (or, at least, I'd like to think they wouldn't) say to your face or in a room full of people who have been pulled together to talk about a student. And this is problematic because it isn't productive. So, certainly, my Parent Grading Criteria would include items about quantity of emails, the tone of the emails, and the relative cooperation parents show in emails.

But also, the main elements of my criteria would involve grading parents on how willing they are to hold their students accountable to their work, their ethics, their behavior, and their learning. I am so, so, so tired of students never, EVER being allowed to feel frustration. Or hurt. Or failure. Especially failure. Because too often, parents swoop in and fix it before they can feel it. It's no wonder so many of our students are self-medicating and essentially anesthetizing themselves with Oxy and marijuana and alcohol: no one has helped provide them with the emotional tools they need to feel. Stop bringing them their lunches. Stop running interference with their teachers and their coaches. Stop trying to get them out of a school punishment. Or a home punishment. And stop asking teachers to meet with you when the student earns (yes, that's right, earns) a B on a paper. Or in the class. Or on a dinky quiz. Quite frankly, a B kid isn't on my radar. F kids. D kids. C--- kids. These kids are on my radar. (And by "on my radar," I mean hand-wriging about and talking to the kid about and trying to create assignments and assessments that might FINALLY tap into something in that student that will ignite a spark. A and B kids, in my mind, already have that spark ignited.) A- kids? B+ kids? These are kids who are fine. They are learning. They are thriving based on my assessments. They're good. Chillax. So emailing teachers about those things would definitely equate to demerits in the parent gradebook.

But really, it's a bad idea. A really bad idea. Do I think that placing all of the blame on teachers for the failures of the schools is fair? Not by a longshot. Do I think that parents need to be held more accountable for their children's success? Maybe. Do I think the students need to be held more accountable for their own success? Absofrigginlutely. But do I think that opening this kind of can of worms is going to work? No. It's arbitrary at best, and potentially incendiary at worst. We (and by we, there are many, many moving parts at play here) keep trying to address symptoms, but really, we're not addressing the root problem, which I am starting to think more and more is the cultural shift in parenting where, at some point, everyone collectively decided that kids should never have to feel hurt or upset ever. But there are different types of hurt and different types of upset; kids should never be bullied. Kids should never be mistreated intentionally. Kids should feel safe in their homes, classrooms, and in public. But kids should be hurt by failure. They should be allowed to feel upset when a teacher calls them out for inappropriate classroom behavior, and learn that sometimes, teachers get annoyed, and sometimes, you do have to be criticized for something you are doing that is unacceptable in the context of your circumstances. They should be allowed to feel upset when they get frustrated by an assignment or a quiz, and should be made to sit with that frustration until they can figure out a way to move through it, past it, or address it and fix it.

So that's that. I think it's time to go to bed. Oh. Wait. It's only 7:20. Maybe bed isn't quite in the cards yet. ::grumble::

As a final thought, one of my colleagues did have this to say about grading parents: "I mean, hey, they think they can assess and criticize us with no official training. I think turnabout is fair play." Heh.

1 comment:

  1. Here is what I have to say to parents:

    1) You can impose consequences on your children.

    2) If your children don't respect you, well, that's your fault.

    3) Parent conferences are not marital therapy.

    4) The grades are ONLINE. ALL THE TIME.

    5) Believe it or not, I have a life outside my classroom.

    6) Your children talk about you. Just so you know.

    7) You do have an influence on your kids, whether you believe it or not.

    8) Giving up on kids is not an option.

    9) If you aren't taking care of your kids, stop having kids. They know what causes that.

    10) KIDS. LIE.

    I could say more. But 10 is enough for now.