Today’s classes were bad, albeit in a kind of ordinary way.
First, my lowest level 7th graders were supposed to have performed their speech contest speeches in class today. However, one hadn’t finished and will get a lunch date tomorrow if he doesn’t finish. Others had not brought their papers and decided that exempted them from having to do anything.
They were shocked when I made them go up the front and do their speeches.
Since it was a self-introduction I felt they should have been able to do it without their scripts. However, when two started with “My name is…uh…uh…” they got sat down and got zeroes. In fact, one third of the class ended up getting zeroes and will have to go again on Monday.
In my 9th grade class students were only supposed to do dress rehearsal. However, one student has been avoiding me because he has yet to finish a speech script. Today he ran off to the nurse’s office. He’ll be in at lunch tomorrow as well, even if I have to annoy his homeroom teacher.
I suspect that he thinks that if he delays long enough he won’t have to do it. Staying after school every day next week will probably cure him of that. As I’ve said before: he doesn’t realize I do this for sport.
The rest of the class was pretty good, though. I have to give them that.
One of the tricks for dealing with bad students who think they’re really cool is to get under their skin whilst not letting them get under yours, The trouble is, by the time you feel the need to get under their skin, they’ve already got under yours. .
For example, I have an 8th grade student who’s decided he’s too cool for my class. (Note: this is one of the defining characteristics of 8th graders.) Last week, rather than work on homework when he had the chance, he spent the class playing Cat’s Cradle with a piece of green yarn. He sits with his back to me, even when I’m speaking, and today he refused to sit in his assigned seat. (Also a defining characteristic of 8th graders at the school where I work.)
Even after I told him to get in his assigned seat he just kind of shrugged and continued to talk with his friends rather than practice his speech contest speech.
During the actual speech time, when each student had to go the front and read their speech (Note: today was only practice; long story). I started calling him by the name of the student who was supposed to be sitting in the chair he was occupying. This seemed to get under his skin and make him mad, especially when I called him to do his speech. Rather than go to the front, he went back to his regular chair.
He then got mad when I told him to do his speech anyway. He gave me an eye roll and a smug look and refused to go up to the front. I leaned back and said I had all evening because the class was sixth period. I told him we could stay until 3:30 or 4:30. Either way, we’d stay until every student was finished.
Because he had me last year he knew I wasn’t bluffing and finally did his speech. He went back to the wrong seat again, but he also did the worksheet I handed out once everyone was finished.
We just came off a three day weekend and today everyone was already going “Is it really only Tuesday?”
This is partly because the typhoon messed up schedules and created a dreary weekend that should have otherwise been fun. We’ve also got marking to do and new lessons to plan and, in my case, a handful of students to chase down so I can force them to write speeches at odd hours. (Granted, I usually do this for sport, but I’ve been feeling out of sorts for a couple weeks to it feels less like fun and more like work.)
I’ve also been giving the future of this little bit of blather a lot of thought, but I’ll get to that in a another post.
Luckily, my schedule actually gets easier as I go along this week. But this doesn’t mean I’ll be more productive.
This week went surprisingly quickly, but maybe because I wasn’t actually teaching.
This week, since I have mostly junior high school classes, I spent most of my time chasing down and listening to speeches. Because of this, I didn’t have much to prepare.
This usually leads to a boring week, but this week went quickly.
Perhaps it’s because the weather, despite a coming typhoon and lots of humidity, is getting cooler. Or perhaps it’s because I’m not yet in the phase of teaching where I have to care about what I’m doing.
Eventually I’ll have to start caring and the weeks will get longer. Until then, It’s kind of fun not having much to do because I don’t care what gets done.
I am perhaps less sympathetic than I should be, but sometimes I just don’t care.
If I really sit down with an idea, I can knock out a 1,000 word essay in an hour or so, and still have time for at least one revision. Because I can do this, I sometimes forget that others can’t. I do remember that days when writing 1,000 words was difficult and that sometimes makes my heart grows one size those days.
However, when it comes to students at the school where I work, I’m much less sympathetic. My heart gets fairly small.
For example, today one of my 9th grade students passed me the text of his speech contest speech. He’s had since July 14th to work on it, but he had written fewer than 50 words of a speech that’s supposed to last 90 seconds to two minutes long.
This means that if he’d only written one word each day since he’d received the assignment his speech would be longer than what he presented me today. I told him to make it longer and he genuinely didn’t seem to understand what was wrong, even after I underlined the pertinent section in the Japanese language instructions.
He didn’t even seem savvy enough to copy the included example and simply change a few words as most of his fellow students did.
Luckily for both of us he listened to my advice and made it long enough that I didn’t require him to come in at lunch.
I still have a few students to chase down though. They might ruin my lunch, which makes me very unsympathetic.
Any serious examination of the issue proves handily that 8th graders are the worst grade to teach.
By this point in their junior high school tenure, 8th graders at the school where I work have 1) hit full, merciless puberty and 2) have figured out that they cannot fail. This combination leads to interesting leaps of logic.
In today’s class, I noticed that, despite threats of repeated lunch/writing dates with me, three students were not doing anything. Their reasoning was that because they had already finished the paper, they were done. When I pointed out that I’d not actually seen a speech from them, they said they’d left their speeches at home. I pointed out that such excuses did not mean they had free time. Instead, they were expected to write something.
However, because I was busy dealing with students who were actually writing, I wasn’t able to police the room as well as I’d have liked. (I was also dealing with a kid who spent the entire class playing Cat’s Cradle with a piece of green yarn, but that’s another story.)
Now the students, after failing today, face the risk that they will forget their paper again tomorrow and will have to join me at a lunch time writing session that will meet every day until they produce a speech.
I predict at least one will forget his speech paper.
The day started with a joke that led to a suitable amount of panic.
Every now and then I like to start off the first class of summer by taking roll and then telling my students to turn in their homework. The reactions are a mix of confusion and panic and I can see my students replaying the events of the last class via whatever internal database they use for such things.
Today’s high school second year students bought the joke completely and some were looking around for people who would be could sources for homework copying. I then told them it was a joke, making me suddenly much more popular.
After that I had two first year junior high school classes in a row. By the time I emerged from those noisy messes I felt as if I’d just come from a night club where I was the designated driver and all I got from the evening was ringing ears and a voice that was too loud.
Tomorrow I’ve got higher grades, but I don’t think they’ll be less noisy.
It’s always interesting to see, at the school where I work, what the new dynamic in a junior high school first year class will be once everyone has been defined.
For reasons I don’t fully understand, the school where I work splits first year junior high school students by name/number for the first term, and then assigns them to a higher or lower level class starting the second term. Once they are defined as higher or lower, though, there is no changing.
This means that the class that I got to know last term now has five new people who don’t know me and don’t know the rules. It’s almost as if it’s the start of the school year again. The new students start testing me and I start pushing back at them.
It hasn’t started yet, but it will.
I’m most interested to see what happens with my newly defined lower level class. I sent better students up and received lower level students. Once students are defined as low level, they tend to behave badly especially as the class I teach doesn’t move students each term as other classes do. I’ve got a few activities I hope will keep them busy but I’m not optimistic.
So far, the students have been okay, but it’s only day one.
I got called out by some parents today. I quashed their complaints pretty quickly though, even though we’ve never actually met.
One of my colleagues brought me a student’s exam with an impressive score on it and explained that the student’s parents were complaining because, despite the high score, the student had received a score much lower than that as final mark. (Imagine earning on A on the final exam but earning a B for the entire course.)
Part of the issue is that final exams are only 50% of the final mark. (Which is too high, in my opinion, but that’s the way things are.) The other 50% is class participation and class projects. This often helps bad to average students. For example, it is possible to earn a 0 for class participation but still receive a passing score by doing well on the exam. (A 0 class mark plus a 62 on the final exam equals a 31% final mark which is passing at the school where I work, albeit with a few unpleasant consequences such as not getting automatic promotion to the attached university if that kind of mark is normal for the student.)
I quickly determined that although the student had done well on the exam and on a couple projects, he’d generally not done well on the other projects and had done the bare minimum on day-to-day participation. He actually had a B+ and was just a little extra effort away from an A.
Luckily, my colleague understood and promised to notify the students and the parents. I expect that student will be much more active this term…
There are certain, um, certainties that accompany the first day back after summer at the school where I work, especially if you are teaching junior high school classes.
At least five students in the class will have lost the speech contest paper and you’ll have to give them a new copy. This happens even in higher level classes.
At least four students will do absolutely nothing during the “amnesty” class in which there is no penalty for not having finished your speech. (There is, however, a penalty for doing nothing.)
Of the students who actually present rough drafts, at least half will be unreadable computer translator gibberish. One quarter will have obviously been written by the students’ cram school teachers. One quarter will be good.
Also, at least one student will surprise you. (Note: not in each class; just one per day.) Today, one of my more difficult students presented an actual speech. It wasn’t good enough for him to have had anything resembling competent help and it wasn’t bad enough to have come out of translation software. He may have actually written it; or someone slightly more competent than him did.
He didn’t make the obligatory copy of it though, so perhaps he wasn’t all that surprising.