Tuesday, November 27, 2007

hard work

Today my students took a quiz, read their novel silently and took notes, and browsed books and stationary at our school book fair during the 41 minute period.  Tomorrow I will attend a local reading conference, and the guidance counselor will lead an activity in my classes.  I think about the rest of the week - graphic novel lesson (continued from 2 weeks ago) Thursday, then nonfiction SSR (sustained silent reading) Friday - and the week's done.

I feel twinges of guilt that I'm not working harder this week.  Then I think, why should I work harder?  I'm not the one trying to pass 7th grade.  You teachers know what I'm talking about - something's WRONG when the teacher works harder than the student.

Teaching my curriculum is not hard work.  It's engaging, creative, challenging, trying, rewarding, worrisome, etc.  But it's not hard work.  Helping kids make friends is hard work.  That's been gnawing away at the back of my mind ever since last week's parent conferences.  We all know what to say and do when students have academic struggles - organize, work harder, study, encourage, reward, consequence, blah blah blah.  But what do we adults do when students have trouble making friends?  And I don't mean "the right crowd" - I mean FRIENDS.

There are over 1300 students in my school - grades 6, 7, and 8.  I think a quarter of them pass through my hallway each day.  I teach 97 students (added a new student today!) each day, for 41 minutes each, in groups of about 20.  The average 7th grader attends 6 or 7 different classes each day.

The New York State Learning Standards for English Language Arts includes "reading, writing, listening, and speaking for social interaction".  That's why my subject is crazy and wonderful at the same time.  I should and I can and I do create opportunities for students to make friends, but so far, it's the hardest part of my job.


Anonymous said...

You're right, helping students in establishing social contacts or preventing bullying is extremely hard. My main goal righ now is to make students feel safe in my room, so that they feel they can come in whenever they like, and talk to me about anything they want. The next step is to help them solve challenges and problems they face, but it's not easy at all...

Natalie said...

Holy cow. 97!? I have 60!

This post made me feel very grateful for my grade. We're generally nice.

I never thought the teachers noticed that sort of thing. It makes me happy when I realize they're looking out for us! Of course, they only show it with schoolwork, and when some one feels sick. Good luck!

roller coaster teacher said...

Frum - you're right. Making friends is just one of many different challenges teens face that have no easy solutions. But that's life, right? No one hands us adults any easy answers either.

Natalie - last 2 teams I taught were groups of 120, so this team is small in comparison, no joke. I know students don't think teachers notice or care about the social stuff, so I think it makes a difference when the teacher says something, even if the teacher can't solve the problem.

jenamoured said...

my students can be so rotten sometimes, so when there are certain kids who have trouble making social connections, i don't know what to do! it's very very tough.

ps- yesterday B, a student, came to me, gave me a hug, and said, "Thanks, Ms. H, for making class fun. I never liked language arts before."

yes! personal victory!