Things I learned this week about teaching, redux

Oh my. What a week it’s been. The natives are so restless, and it’s wearing me down. Let’s see, what did I learn this week?

1. That sometimes when young boys sexually harass young girls and they get in trouble for it, they come back and blame the girls for their getting in trouble. They say things like, “You got me suspended for no reason.” I realize that I need to figure out how to talk to the boys so they understand that this is continued bullying and that there was a reason they got in trouble and that reason is not the girls’ fault. I fear they will turn into mean, bullying men.

2. I learned that sometimes the boys who seem not to care (who are failing) really do want to do better in school. This past Wednesday I stayed after school for tutoring, and offered this time to both my ELD classes. Three boys stayed, each of them boys I thought were slower to learn than they actually are. They are guys who just never quite keep up. Each has pretty juvenile handwriting, which I am beginning to believe is an indication of something being less than developed in their brains. Like maybe small motor coordination translates to something to do with reading and processing? I don’t know, this is just something I’m wondering about. They all came in and sat down and worked, taking this time very seriously. No playing around at all.

Consider the social situation of these boys: One, Gavin, was born with 3 kidneys, not all of them hooked up and he had major surgery to fix that sometime in the past. He says he was in the hospital for 11 months because his kidneys weren’t working. He also says his father used to hit him with shovels, until he called the police on him. He says he is ‘traumatized.’ I guess so. Another one, Alfredo, was recently suspended for five days for bringing marijuana to school for sale. I assume he is smoking it as well, which doesn’t bode well for academic performance. The third one, Juan, told me that his mother no longer lives with the family. She is in Texas. I’m not sure how long she’s been gone. Each of these situations certainly has the power to derail the importance of school, don’t you think? (I include assumed names here because I have an idea I may be writing more about them in the weeks to come.)

3. I seem to be noticing things about the boys this week. Ever since I’ve been teaching middle school, I’ve been very surprised and saddened by many of the boys. They just don’t seem to care about how they do in school. Especially the Latino boys. I really only teach Latino and Hmong kids, and the Hmong usually manage to maintain their schoolwork. It is the Latino boys who are the most likely to drop out of school, I believe (If the data is correct.). My experience has borne this out. Each year I have had a large contingent of boys who do little to none of their work, and even with good parent support,continue to fail. It has shown me why they fizzle out in high school. They seem to have given up before arriving at middle school. So this after school time was interesting to me. I’m going to keep it up, I think, to see if maybe I can help make a difference for a few kids, at least.

4. If I am to actually help make a change for the outcome of these kids, it will probably not be by helping them to complete the work I have assigned. While I think I assign work that is useful (it’s standards based, so it must be good, right?!), I bet I’ll have to work a little deeper, maybe on some foundational skills. For instance, maybe I could mount a campaign to help them become better readers…to improve their handwriting, thus helping develop their small motor coordination. I wonder which comes first, small motor coordination or handwriting…I have to think about this. How could my help be the most effective in the long run? Maybe this is where my inquiry is headed. It looks like I have some research to do. I’ll begin with Jeff Wilhelm’s work about boys, as well as Chris Tovani’s work.

Stay posted…

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3 thoughts on “Things I learned this week about teaching, redux

  1. dkzody says:

    You have made some good headway with your thinking. Keep it up, don’t stop now, those boys need you.

    I have seen the same thing with Latino boys. One of whom I had in marketing for three years is now married to one of the top students from that class and she is attending college. She wrote to me that her hubby wishes now he had done better in high school. Perhaps I will write and ask her to talk to him about why he didn’t do better. That could offer some fodder to your thinking!

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