Thursday, December 11, 2008

Get Out of My Head

Yesterday my geometry students were whining (again) that I am making them do too much work. Specifically, they're going to be doing a Problem of the Week (POW), which involves not only solving a difficult problem, but doing a fairly extensive write-up about how they solved it. It's a lot of work, but it's not unmanageable, and I'm giving them a week to do it. When we did the last POW, only about a third of the class turned one in, and since they're worth the equivalent of five homeworks, it made a big impact on their grades.

So in all their whining yesterday, they said that I shouldn't assign the new POW because a lot of them just aren't going to do it. I replied that that's their choice, but that it will have the same negative impact on their grade. I reminded them that we're spending the entire 90 minutes on it on Friday, so they'll have a lot of time to get help, etc. T. yelled out, "You're going to make us all fail." Um, no. Me assigning work doesn't make you fail; you not doing the work I assign makes you fail. Then E. somehow knew the exact words to push my buttons: "That's going to make you look bad, to have so many students fail. You're going to be embarrassed. And as a first year teacher too!"

Thanks, E. Thank you for knowing exactly what I'm thinking and voicing it so publicly. My obvious reaction was to lie and say that I didn't feel bad explaining to other people that my students got F's because they didn't turn in major assignments. Lying seems to be an important weapon in my teacher arsenal, especially when kids are being obnoxious. I told my second block yesterday that no, I was not about to cry, I was turning red because I was getting frustrated with them. How do they know the exact things that will drive me craziest?


Roni said...

I know I'll sound completely out of line here, but I'll say it anyway: those little bastards. All the more reason to stick it to them, if you ask me. Honestly, Geetha, asking them to manage their time on multiple tasks, integrating written literacy into the math curricula and then offering to help them adjust to this new skill set should make you feel proud. Especially as a first year teacher. Those are skills that they need, whether they know it or not, and as Sophomores (I'll assume that's how old they are if they're studying Geometry) they need to get used to it.

I'd be calling in the cavalry on the few kids who where the most vocal. It sounds to me like you have some ring leaders who wield power amongst their peers. Call them in with the assistance of the guidance counselor or Dean or whomever you have access to, and then make them explain again why they are publicly stating that they won't do homework. Put the onus on them to make their aversion to this project logical. Hell, call mom and dad and express your concern that they seem too busy to do their homework. I guarantee that mom will say, "oh really?", get on junior's case, and while he may grumble the next day about getting in trouble his homework will be done.

These kids are testing you. It's happened to me, I reacted the same way you did (probably will if it happens again, which it might looking at my course list for next year), but push through. Remember, it's your class, not theirs.

Linda said...

Kids have a special radar for what pushes your buttons best. I know this as an educator and as a mother. (Think on that and I am sure you will realize how skilled my own children are at that.)

I don't know what the best response to it is. Lying is a good start, but you have to lie convincingly enough that they don't know how good they are at pushing your buttons. I think it means that they are testing you but also that they like and trust you enough to do it. That makes no sense, but neither does a lot of the adolescent mind.

I would not call the kids "bastards" or similar things, I think they are kids trying every trick in their arsenal. If you believe what you are doing is right--and it obviously is--then don't give in. Teach them some tricks--like doing their homework. It will serve you and them well in the future. If you buckle, the word will get out and you will be doomed.