If a teacher talks in a classroom and no one listens...
There are many more important topics this blog should focus on today, but I have to share a story instead.
Today in my reading class, we focused our learning objectives on identify cause and effect relationships as well as identifying problems and solutions. As with many students in underperforming schools, and for that matter, performing schools, complain about their schools. My students are no different. I regularly am reminded that school sucks or that teachers suck or that reading sucks. So, I figured we'd discuss this topic in relationship to our learning objectives.
I put the following on the board:
Problem: WGASH is ineffective (not good) at teaching its students.
Then, I asked them to think about and write down as many causes for our school's ineffectiveness. After a few minutes, I asked them to share their thoughts.
Of my nine students in the room, only three participated actively. Three sat indifferently. Three chose to talk and then practice their dance moves.
So there I was, torn between what approach to take in regaining engagement. I didn't want to lose the three who were participating, but the three talking and dancing were not responding to my directive statements. As I tried to keep the discussion going and attempt proximity with the three non-participants, the three engaged students began to falter. They were distracted. When I verbally tried to redirect the three dancers, they ignored me. And when I say they ignored me, I mean that they did not even acknowledge I had spoken to them. I then attempted planned ignoring, but by that time, there was no chance of having a discussion.
On the way home, I told the story to my wife. I heard myself saying that I must suck as a teacher. But that would contradict the anectdotal evidence from throughout the day when many at risk students stopped by my room to check in and give a fist bump. How can I have a positive impact on some of the most challenging students in our school and then walk into my classroom only to get ignored?
My wife said, "Well, it just shows that when you try to teach them, get them to learn something, you are the bad guy. But in the hallway, you can just be you."
I wonder how much truth there is in that. What extent of my trouble engaging some students in my classes is simply because I am trying to teach them reading skills?