As October comes to a too-chilly and weirdly slush-filled finish, I’ve tried to look back at my thoughts for the month in an attempt to slow life down and see if my perspective has changed thus far this year. These ideas and thoughts should be easily found here in the blog, right? But upon finding only one entry this past month, I’ve slumped my weary head down to my chest and have shaken my head at myself in lameosity (SMH).
Two weeks ago I did sit down on a Tuesday night and typed up some of my school related problems and ideas, only to tire and pass out minutes later without completion. Many a night I can remember having the option of formulating something nice to write down and share with my friends and family on the blogosphere. On almost all of these nights, the other options of watching TV, playing basketball, or video games have dominated my free time and squashed any chance of a blog post like a helpless little bug. This will end tonight, as I will squeeze a post together for the end of October.
First and foremost, last week was a week that I was looking forward to. The eighth grade had a trip to the Tenement Museum on Monday, and then a Middle School-Wide trip to a State Park on Tuesday.
I know you just tripled back to read that last line over and over again because you thought that it couldn’t be. It’s true though, A DOUBLE TRIP!!! Consecutive field trips to start a week definitely have the disadvantage of being tiring, but nevertheless, they are incredible. I’d say that this particular scenario is almost as good as a double half-day or even equivalent to snow day in terms of happiness for teachers.
That said, I went on the Tenement Museum Trip with the students and it was a lovely and enjoyable trip in which the students learned about tenements and the immigrant story of New York. We spent the rest of the time walking around the Lower East Side and filling out a Scavenger Hunt at places like Katz’s Deli. When I got back home I was indeed exhausted. I took a standard half-hour nap, wasted some time, went out the dinner with family, and came home feeling like ten bricks had been stacked on my head. When I awoke, I had a raging fever, a sore throat, and a grade a headache. Because this post will not be about my sickness (because that would be really lame and full of talk of sweat), all I will say is that on Tuesday the doctor confirmed I had the flu, and I spent the rest of the week in bed recovering.
Thinking back to the other weeks in October since I last posted about my students already faltering grades, similar issues still permeate life at school and dominate my mind at work. The most agonizing dilemma in trying to help many of my kids is that soooooo much of the reason their grades are so low is due to a lack of homework completion and study skills.
Last week I did an entire lesson on what reasonable study habits should be (how long you should study for a quiz or a test, the various ways you can study material for individual classes, in what kind of environment should you study so you can remember material etc.). I learned a great deal about how much responsibility a majority of my students have at home taking care of younger siblings, and how loud and full of distractions many of my students’ apartments or houses are.
Many students in low-income communities have these same problems, and with many parents out of the house during the afternoon and evening hours, completing assignments or finding a quiet time to study outside of the confines of school is a major obstacle.
I think that I am aware of many of these distractions and do empathize with most situations, but then after this sympathy, where does that leave us as teachers? The bottom line is that if students cannot bring in their homework or study for a test, they will eventually fail. Too often, these same students are the ones who drop out of High School and become unproductive members of society.
I struggle with this dilemma all the time as I try to increase their habits at home and tell them a million times that although homework seems annoying sometimes, it all matters in the long run.
I think that THE most frustrating and aggravating thing about not seeing the results that you want, are the things you can’t control. In this case, students’ with less support at home are always the most difficult to push toward success. The only thing that we can do is affect what is in our control, and this means we have to get funky with different ways of having the students buy into homework and studying. Hopefully we see improvement.