Showing posts with label students. Show all posts
Showing posts with label students. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Talented students and self confidence

If a talented student at the start of year 11 wants to leave your class what do you do?

It's a question I don't know the answer to and is a difficult one.

Paths I've taken in the past have included:
a) Discuss their choices and investigate their motivation for leaving
b) Direct them to school counsellors
c) Do nothing

Invariably before now I have been sucked into option a). This last time I've decided to do c). Whether it is peer pressure, lack of support from parents, lack of confidence in your abilities, interference from other learning areas to bolster numbers, laziness or poor work ethic; students feel compelled to make changes at the start of year 11. It will be interesting to see what they will do. I know though that I can't in all honesty tell them that they will pass if they think the grass is greener elsewhere. I'd much rather have those students that are enjoying themselves in the new courses.

The pall cast by students wishing to leave really dampens my enjoyment of classes as I was really looking forward to working positively with them. I suppose it's just the ups and downs of working with adolescents.

The main course affected seems to be the year 11 3ab MAS course. The introduction of new content seems to have spooked a few students. I am concerned that the MAT only students this year will struggle in 3C MAT next year without the additional practice provided by 3AB MAS. It is only guesswork at this stage.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Making schools a part of the social system

Many attribute social behaviours to treatment within schools.

Children under the age of 18 are arbitrarily required to attend school or seek gainful employment. Yet many of the children in our justice system are no longer attending school or seeking gainful employment.

Similarly, many children in schools are not students, but young adults actively being impediments to the learning of other students. They have little or no interest in schooling and have no interest in seeking gainful employment.

If students have no interest in schooling or are not in gainful employment I suggest that we strip them of their rights as children and call them adults... any illegal activities get tried as adults, protections given to children are removed and sentences roll into the adult system as they turn age. After all not in school, not acting like a child, demanding adult responsibility and treatment - grant their wish.

Similarly if a child is not contributing in school, not valuing their education, being an impediment to the learning of others (with no feasible solution available to get the child performing as a student) .. whoosh - out they go either into an alternate programme off campus or into the real world as an adult and lose their privileges as a child.

With one proviso - any government payments for children are instantly stripped if they stop attending school and adult payments for these children are not available until they turn 21 if school is not finished (a very simple process that could be completely handled electronically). Exceptions would be handled on a case by case basis with very strict criteria after testing for learning disabilities and available environmental supports.

Whoa! I hear you say.. that's a bit radical... but nobody values what is given on a plate - only when there is a risk of loss is it valued. For schools to be a part of the social system, it needs to be recognised that schools cannot be held account for all social ills, they can though be a filter for recognising them and helping the borderline cases back into the mainstream. Stuffing extreme cases into an already taxed system and hoping all will be ok runs the risk of dragging many more real students down with it. Schools should be centres of learning filled with students and families that value education... not a young adult minding service.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Real Estate & the calibre of staff

I have worked in many careers, but my first was as a receptionist (of all things) when I was 17. I worked in a real estate office for three years.

Now if there is any career to direct a real plod of a student it has got to be real estate (What am I saying about myself??!!??) and the real estate rep generally is the stupidest person and most dishonest you can find.

Anyhow.. I come home today and there is a real estate for sale sign on my home. I think to myself.. have I decided to do this in a moment of insanity (no.. I don't think so..), has my mushbrain pregnant wife done so.. (no.. she loves her home)... did I not pay the mortgage this week??

No.. the real estate company "Ray White" just decided to put my house up for sale. A quick phone call and the sign was gone literally 3 mins later and two reps had some fairly burning ears. If they can't put the for sale sign on the right house, I wonder how good they are at selling houses (or even the right one!).

Not to mention the agents that can't read "no junk mail" yet still drop unsolicited mail in the mailbox (yes Professionalscoastal - Monika van Namen - I mean you!).

Yep.. an industry still full of plods.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

You just don't get it sir!

Yes, the kids do call us 'Sir' still, it's a mark of endearment for some kids - but before anyone gets too excited, there's usually a 'f*ck off' in a nearby sentence.

Occasionally you get a disruptive student that says "I just don't get maths" or "I don't need maths in "... and I think to myself here we go again. Do I have an honest student that has no faith in their ability or a student looking for excuses to maintain poor behaviour?

I have a great test for this but it requires being done in a period before lunch. I suggest that if they don't get it, it's ok, wait behind after class and I'll give them as much time as they need. In fact I insist, it's very important that they master the concept and not fall behind. It's amazing how many students get instant inspiration and get the task done.

Some students think I came down in the last shower and copy another student's work. A quick question usually indicates that I know when they are 'borrowing answers' and then I insist that they remain to get additional assistance to avoid such dependence on others. At this point they can be quite stroppy.

I start them off and they usually take about half of lunch procrastinating over the first question, arguing, complaining and whinging. They eventually realise I'm happy to wait until I see some success and start work..

.. and that's where my real work begins. I ask questions about how relevant they find maths, what do they find hard, I watch their every move and slowly, subtly start helping them with each answer. How can I make learning easier? Where in the class would they be less disturbed? How do they think I feel when teaching becomes impossible due to the number of interruptions? How can I connect maths with their aspirations? Other students come in that I have great rapport with (in senior years) and I give them a hand whilst the student is working. By the end of the period they see (in most cases) that a) they can do maths and b) if they just read their notes they could figure out what to do c) despite being noisy others students get work done and d) most students in my class have had this talk. I then let them in on the real secret - if teachers really didn't care, they would just let students fail and not try to get them to succeed. I suppose it also helps that I grew up in the area, know the type of kids to some degree and was reasonably successful prior to teaching.

If this fails, the next level is discussion with other teachers and the parent call/three way conference with pre-prepared wads of homework and suggestions of reduced TV/sport/PS3 time. Word quickly gets around it's a bad idea to get me 'organised'.

Maths is a confidence game and building the confidence of key students in a class can help make it all work. It's amazing what a class can do when disruptive influences become positive and the right opportunities are allowed to flourish.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Avoidant behaviours on the nose

I thought I'd start with a lighthearted post as today this happened in two different classes. I've noticed an increase of stinky kids - I don't mean kids with poor hygiene - I mean the kids (usually boys) that let one rip and fill the room with godawful pong..

There are times when I say don't exaggerate, yes he made a noise, it's a natural function now get on with your work.. but today there was a dark cloud surrounding the little darling. It was capital S, STINKY!

Now, flatulence happens to the best of us I'm sure, but no kid wants to be known as the stinky kid. This is one problem that can be faced and dealt with, although I'm not sure by whom. Do you refer them to the school psychologist, call the parent, have a talk with their health teacher, direct the kid to the loo? I don't know..

From a teacher point of view, you need to hose it down or you get the 'wanna be' funnies making stupid noises at decreasing intervals. In my classes repeat offenders that call attention to themselves get called stinky and soon get the message - especially if it continues past the class by students in the playground. This is a reasonably effective strategy for a popular student but can have long lasting repercussions if it goes too far or with an already unpopular student. Perhaps a quick warning and anecdotal story to the student about how 'another student' was labelled 'stinky' for life might do the trick.

Another common class disruption is the student that hasn't eaten and claims that hunger is preventing them from working. We are lucky that we have good in school process for feeding these sorts of kids albeit they still miss most of class whilst being fed.

I'm not even going to touch on the 'I'm too sick to work/I need a drink/I need to go to the toilet/I need to see the counsellor or nurse' plague.

The armoury of student behaviours to avoid work and teachers strategies to sidestep avoidant behaviours is like walking a tightrope - especially in lower classes. One push and a student/parent complaint, a lack of push and a class of low performing students. It's a tough one experienced teachers navigate naturally. I look forward to the day when I can do the same.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Students and the male teacher

I must be doing something wrong.. Maths teachers don't get students saying hello in shopping centres. Need to be more grumpy next term..

I had to laugh when one of my yr 11 girls in a local shopping centre walked up and struck up a conversation. After 2 mins of banter she announced very proudly that she had been going out with her boyfriend for 5 months and pointed him out. I told her she was too young for boyfriends and she should go home and play with her dolly. She gave me a look as if I was insane. What was she doing out on her own at 8.30? It was way past fat cat's bed time. I teased her about not getting the maths award and she thumped me in the arm and then was instantly worried that she had gone over the line. I assured her that it was ok but not to do it in school. I think they see me as a bit of a fuddy duddy.

It was nice that a student wanted to say hello.. maths isn't like other subject areas - we're not the cool subject. I then shooed her away and said to have a nice time at the movies.

Yet I have to thank my mother in law for her training - never be with a student alone.. if an unavoidable situation arises move to an open doorway and instruct the student to leave.. encourage students to come to extra help lessons in pairs and threes... and the things I learnt in my previous profession.. always maintain professional distance.. physically and emotionally.

This can be hard, especially with kids lacking father figures.. when a kid is in tears you want to console them and once upon a time that was a role of a teacher. Sadly, this is no more and we redirect them to counselling. And maybe this is a good thing too in this day in an age of litigous parenting and the lack of trust between parents, teachers and various parts of the community.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Three stages of Learning

Kids often say, how come it's so easy on the board but not in the test?

I tell my kids in class that there are three stages of learning. Stage one, anything I do on the board looks like gibberish. Stage two, the student can do stuff themselves - but forgets as soon as they walk out the door at the end of the lesson. Stage three students have mastered the topic and will be able to do well in their test.

It's not in any text that I have read - but is pretty logical and there are things students can do to get through each stage.

Step one is the first hurdle and requires engaging with the lesson, asking questions, listening, working with fellow students and seeing the teacher after class when necessary. Once understanding is gained only then is application and practice of any use.

Step two is about application. Have I done enough practice to make sure I don't forget this. Typically this is where most students fall down - some students need only a little revision to remember things, others need a lot and this changes with difficulty levels. There are many pitfalls here, but the path to mastery is overlearning - doing something to the point where thinking is not needed. Do your homework too, it's a good test of whether or not you have finished this stage!

Step three is where the current topic can provide a solid basis for the next topic. It's where so few students end up with the hectic pace of our current curriculum. When a student consistently reaches this stage is when a student really starts to do well.

Update 19/9/09: I later added a mastery step 4 and renamed the model the "Duh? I get it.. I got it.. I got it real good like" model, which kids seem to relate to.