Monday, September 22, 2008

Positivity and my need for it

A student today told me that I should mind my 'effin business and worry about myself, not that he was in the hallway walking aimlessly with his buddy. When I informed him that my contract requires me to concern myself with such trivial matters, he added, "I don't give a shit."
And that's when Joanne Jacobs' post on worst school name ever sprinted back to me. I came up with a truly non-positive thinking name for my school: Who Gives a Shit High?
I know, this should be beneath me, but it isn't. Not today. The year started with such a positive tone, and I have certainly tried to convey that positivity to my students. But it's difficult to put on a show that Rihanna might sing a song about. One that would garner "a round of applause."

It's not every student at the school; it just seems that way because the ones who test my patience are so loud and absurd. Their flippancy degrades the building attitude, and teacher positivity, to such an extent that the ones who deserve the best opportunity to learn don't recieve it.
Here are a few examples from today while I walked through the halls during my prep--not because I want you to look down on WGASH, but because, today, I need to vent:
--Three security guards slowly walking a student out of a classroom as he cusses them out for every room he passes to hear.
--A student bursts out of the principal's office, darts across the hall and lands three or four quick body shots to the wall of lockers.
--I stop a second group of boys in the hall. One response to why they aren't in class: "I only come to school for the p***y."

I'd like to be positive this year, but if my days are going to be filled with this garbage, maybe I need to start a charter school where the Wizard of Ed can take me out of my Kansas.


At 6:27 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where is the leadership in your school? Does it recognize that the student attitudes you enumerate are prevalent? How has it engaged staff, teachers and parents in a process of changing the internal image of the school?
At one point the Bronx school in which I taught had four different principals in four years. During that time it descended into a chaos that for once seemed to fit what people think of when they talk about decaying urban schools. Then the fourth principal gradually took control. She created a staff development committee that emphasized teachers within the school sharing their successes and communicating about plans, approaches and attitudes. She gave the hitherto largely ceremonial student government real say in school policies and a forum for suggesting changes. She supported a group of initiatives that rewarded students for becoming involved in school activities. She identified a small group of highly disruptive students and worked out programs with their parents and teachers to have them make up credits they needed and move more quickly towards graduation, or move into GED programs, or move to second chance schools, or move to other schools. She created a lounge for seniors, changed the traffic patterns for getting to and from the cafeteria for lunch, and became highly visible in the school. We got new windows, the halls were painted, roof leaks got repaired.
We weren’t all happy with everything she did, but as it became clear that staff and students at all levels were valued, it became easier for us to be the teachers we always wanted to be.
Did I still get told to “fuck off” when I confronted those who knew they were not where they were supposed to be? Of course. But I also came to feel I had more ammunition to fire back, and the students knew it.
It’s not easy to turn things around when they have gone terribly wrong. Without intelligent, inclusive, energetic leadership, it’s close to impossible.

At 4:02 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Excellent commentary. Sometimes a drastic change in approach is necessary. Unfortunately, the status quo seems acceptable to many in our district. They are more concerned about the teachers using Marzano's Effective Teaching Strategies as a way to change school culture than getting influencing students as well.

At 5:56 AM , Blogger Julie Carney said...

I think you bring up a good point when you say "the ones who test my patience are so loud and absurd". It's important to keep this in mind when thinking things are bad.

I want to thank you because your blog has given me some great ideas for a site I recently started with the NIFB Young Entrepreneur Foundation. If you get a chance, stop by and say hello.




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