Art by Gwen Meharg –
made available by Creative Commons license

The semester has been over for several weeks now.  I stopped writing this blog midway through the term because I was so discouraged by teaching students who frustrated me in so many ways:

  • students who told me they were too lazy to do the work, and were willing to fail a required, non-credit remedial reading course and be forced to take it AGAIN rather than be bothered to do the work;
  • students who failed quizzes even after I stood at the board and said “This is going to be on the quiz.  This is what I will ask and this is what I am looking for in your answer.”  I don’t think I could possibly have made it any clearer, and yet students who had been sitting in that class and taking notes, missed those questions on the quizzes.  How???
  • one student who had HUGE anger issues.  No matter how gently I corrected her, she flew into a rage and told me she didn’t even allow her mother to speak to her like that.  When her foul language and rudeness finally drove me to pull her out of the classroom and talk to her in the hall, she told me there was no point in anger management because she’d taken every class out there and none of them worked and that’s why she kept going to jail;
  • a young woman who was excited about the ideas we were exploring and participated actively in class, but only showed up one or two days a week out of five.  She consistently reached out to me to arrange to make up work she had missed but then didn’t show up for her appointments, and when I  asked her why, had no explanation except “I don’t know”;
  • Bored, resentful students who didn’t belong in this level of remediation but were placed there by the university because they did not take the placement test as instructed by the Admissions Office.  Our university places students in the lowest level reading class if their ACT scores indicate the need for placement testing but the test isn’t taken.  We do additional placement testing the first two days of classes, but students’ schedules are set and rarely are they willing to shift classes around to move to a higher level.  Unfortunately that means that students with the weakest reading skills are placed in classes with others whose skills are much stronger and who are deeply bored by the time and level of detail needed to help the weakest students improve;

I just got so TIRED.  I even applied for an administrative position (twelve months????) and recently learned, after two interviews, that I did not get the job.  That means I will be returning to the classroom this fall, and I must find my way through this miasma of discouragement – I don’t want to be one of those teachers (I was going to qualify “teachers” with “developmental” but then realized I have seen this bitterness in every level of university instruction) who dislike their students and resent the challenges inherent in teaching them.

When I was considering the administrative job I realized that there were projects I still wanted to try out in a classroom, lessons I still wanted to teach, new ways of teaching the same old stuff I wanted to explore, (and summers I wanted to enjoy!)  So I am going to work hard this summer on visualizing myself in the classroom, grounded in calm.  I am going to do some work noodling around with the concept of expectations and try to see what part that played in my crash-and-burn.  I am going to think about how to re-structure my instruction to help students more successfully make the transition from high school to college.  Colleagues and I have talked about how  freshmen orientation focuses on the social aspects of college life and not the academic expectations.  Social engagement in college is certainly important but it doesn’t necessarily help them pass their classes.  How can we help them understand and truly internalize what it takes to be a successful student?

I need to build in a higher level of accountability for students without making my own workload unbearable.  I need to help them understand the consequences of their choices before those consequences lead them to suspension.  I need to work miracles.  Miracles, find me now.