Making the Best of Bad Students

The company I work for has a lot of people who don’t actually teach. They try to justify their jobs by occasionally  watching me teach. They typically do this on the worst day possible. Today, there was a twist as it was a good day to observe but my students weren’t that good.

The plan was for the observer to watch my junior high students give their speech contest speeches. Class started well: I spoke English, students responded in English and I asked who had their “treasure”. That’s when problems started.

The speech topic is “show and tell” which, by definition, requires the students to bring something to class to show. If they don’t, they get to do the speech on speech day and then do it again the next class when they bring their treasures. (Note: the record is four do-overs.)

After I asked who had their treasure, only seven of 20 students raised their hands. After a few minutes of “no really, who has their treasure?” and “Stop fucking around, who has their treasure?” it became clear that I’d need a second class to finish speeches. The observer, lets call him Fascist Fred, watched me with a “what ya gonna do aboudit” look.

I went into improv mode and announced that since there were so many do-overs, today was a second practice day. Any one who brought their treasure would get extra points as would anyone who could do their speech with no paper. (Note: this class has lots of extra classes compared to other classes I teach, so I was looking for any excuse to burn an extra day/stall.)

I gave the students 15 minutes to practice and then we started the speeches. That got us through the class, but I was disappointed with the number of students who didn’t memorize, even in a higher level class.

In the end I think I looked professional enough, and the class seemed to go smoothly.  The few students brought their treasures did an excellent job on their speeches which means they won’t be punished if they forget their treasures next week.

It also means they’ll probably go to the school speech contest, which some of them consider punishment.

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