blackirondoor

No Really, Stay In Class

Mr. Vilson 7 Comments

blackirondoor

After lunch, students drag their feet to class, chatting it up with friends in the hallway, taking elongated sips of fountain water, peeking into their former teachers’ classes, and generally finding any excuse to not go to their next class. Even as passionate, deliberate, and rock star-ish as I am, kids still do this for my class, too. Students after lunch drag their feet on the routines we established in class, like taking out notebooks and working on the “Do Now” on the board.

Generally, I can get students to focus on our work for the day, and into some meaningful classroom discussion, except for one or two.

With one in particular, I find myself having to metaphorically pull his ears to get into class. The arguments remain: “How come?” “Why do you want me in class?” “Because is not a good enough reason.” “Can I sit outside?” “Can I go to the bathroom for a really long while?” “All of a sudden, my head hurts. Can I go to the nurse and never come back?”

Most of the time, it’s more respectful than that, but it annoys the hell out of me every time. Early in my career, one of my friends told me, “Why spend time on the one or two students who don’t want to be in my class when I have 27 who do?” There’s a point worth exploring. Aside from all the planning, grading, managing, prompting, questioning, shifting, thinking, thinking, and thinking I have to do, I also pride myself on wanting students to come into class, especially if I can take one step into the hallway and call them out. On the other hand, because of all the energy I expend already, it would be nice if the students who need me to pull them in would meet me halfway into the door.

I’m still at a loss.

If we’re constantly in search of that silver bullet that works for 100% of kids 100% of the time, then we’ll leave more children left behind than we intend.

The philosophy goes: “If you teach one, you’ve done a good job.” Yet, if I teach 29 at a time while pulling in that one, am I really teaching 30? Can I be satisfied with only doing what I can? Do I understand the implications if I don’t step in as a math teacher and get him involved in higher-level math? Am I a sucker for my own idealism or is my realism the boss of me?

Until then, my mantra maintains that I rather they stay in class because, whenever the spirit moves them, I hope to be there, nodding and saying, “I knew you could.”

Mr. Vilson

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 7

  1. Alfonso Gonzalez

    Funny how today was the day I and a couple of colleagues at my school were feeling the same way and having the same discussion about the kids who fight us and don’t seem to want to meet us halfway to our doors. I feel like I have more of those than one though! :)

    If anything I’ve learned that I can’t engage 100% of my students 100% of the time. I stay in it for the cumulative effect where 100% of my students are engaged as often as possible throughout each school year.

    Nice to see we share such feelings across the blogosphere.

  2. Schoolgal

    Never stop caring because you will lose those qualities that make you a rock star.
    If after contacting the parent (over and over) and school guidance counselor, then what else is left? So yes, do concentrate of those who show up. But I have to wonder what would happen if you start to ignore this behavior? Would other students follow suit, or will these same students miss the ritual and wonder why you are giving up?? Maybe too many people give up on them? It’s sad, but this is when teachers (and students) need the support of the school–guidance counselor/social worker–parent coordinator–the dean or AP to set up meetings with the student and their parent or caregiver. And if it’s more than one meeting, then so be it.

    People like King know students like this exist, and yet he still holds the teacher accountable come test time. And if a good and caring teacher is deemed ineffective by 1 percentage point or less, then the 95% of the students you do reach or could reach in the future will suffer when you are handed your walking papers.

    One person cannot do this alone, but keep trying.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/07/education/07winerip.html?ref=michaelwinerip&_r=0

  3. nikki stevens

    It isn’t what you are not doing in the classroom, it’s whose not there in the classroom with the teachers, administrators, and the students. I am an advocate for returning prayer back to public schools. Until educators realize that daily prayer, thus God is who is missing teachers will continue being blamed for student’s and parent’s failures. Tenure will be denied, more common core like standards will be created, more and harder testing and more teacher evaluations will be designed to fire teachers and more urban public school will be sold to individuals and corporations for profit. It isn’t man that the students need, it is God and prayer. If our government was being lead by God they wouldn’t be harrassing teachers, common core wouldn’t have being developed and testing would be used as an instrument to help instruction, not as an instrument to call schools failing and close them or fire teachers. Until educators realize what public schools really need, educators will continue to be attacked by people who should be working on returning prayer back in their lifes and in the lifes of public school students.

  4. Gretel

    Jose,
    I was thinking about this as I’ve been reading essays from teachers that say that if they’ve reached one kid, they’ve done their job. I always felt like, when I was teaching, reaching each kid was important, but they didn’t pay me to teach just one.

    I, too, would step out into the hallway and call the stragglers in. Sometimes, I felt like they just wanted someone to WANT them there. One of the pitfalls of following the rules all the time and showing up on time all the time is that you don’t have a lot of moments where people tell you how glad they are to see you there. Sometimes, it’s nice to get a personal invite. Now that I’m in an office reading this, I was thinking this morning how great it would be if my boss called to me from down the block and said, “Come on in to work! We need you here!”

    1. Ariel

      Great article and reflection! It is hard to reach those kids who are unengaged or unmotivated to work. I have found that talking with those students 1-on-1 and asking them what they are interested in studying and then having them explore it (of course, while you guide them to fulfill whatever goals and objectives and skills you have for them) makes a difference. True, there will be those who even when you reach out and personalize the student’s learning they still need to be coaxed to get started or continue… but having those one-to-one meetings reduces the “outsiders” considerably.

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