How do you still love teaching?

because there is always light over the horizon, even when the river seems frozen. Image by me, available on flickr. Click to view source.

because there is always light over the horizon, even when the river seems frozen. Image by me, available on flickr. Click to view source.

Yesterday a friend and I had an email conversation on facebook. She has given me permission to reproduce it here.

friend: how do you still love teaching?
I’m in another tough school, and am starting to wonder if kids are just “like this” everywhere. i know they have issues, but they are incredibly rude, apathetic, and just MEAN to each other. the admin chatted with me today and basically told me to forget the curriculum, and as long as they’re not beating down the walls, it’s ok. wtf?

Ii don’t know how to ‘grab’ them. I’m teaching 7 language arts, and 7,8,9 PDR (personal development and relationships), which they don’t have to pass, and they know that, so they don’t care.
any ideas? or just hope in general ;)

me: give them a reason to not be mean.
give them some hope.

Maybe you do need to forget the curriculum for a bit, to get them caring again. But not for too long. They reach for the bar we have for them. If it is low, their reach is low as well.

Practical ideas? Hmmm…start by identifying the ONE major disrupt – the one kid who, if he/she isn’t there the class is a bit smoother. And spend time with him. Find out what he/she needs to keep occupied in class.

The one big idea I learned from Cliff [former principal of a school we worked at together about 4 years ago] – occupy them or they will occupy you.

What helps me sometimes is writing about it – a blog is great because you can get some feedback with the comments.

Let me know how things go :)
I still love teaching because of the challenge :) Beause there is no better place to learn about human relationship…

These are all the things that I know, but I don’t know how to do it.
I hate spending all my time planning and trying to come up with ideas that don’t work. I want to make things relevant, I want them to care, I want it to be safe, I want it to be FUN. I don’t know how to put all of that together into something that doesn’t look like chaos.

I guess I have to remember too, that this is my first time in a junior high classroom in a public school. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. But I’m exhausted and so, so, so frustrated already. So many people are trying to help me with the ‘what to do’ – the things that i already know – but not the ‘how to do’ – which is what i need. Actually, I shouldn’t say that. There are good ideas floating around, I just need some more time to figure out how to implement them. maybe i just need to accept that this is going to be a rough year, and the next one will be a little bit easier.
Maybe a blog is a good idea….
Thanks :)

me: – don’t go with…very inconsistent!


Are you able to go visit other classrooms? Sometimes an hour in someone else’s classroom makes all the difference.

Setting Limits in the Classroom – a GREAT book for management.

All kids, but more so for middle school kids, need loads of structure to feel safe and to be able to be productive. Make sure they know what is ahead for them. When they walk into the room, be at the door, handing out a mini-assignment to do right away. Then have the agenda on the board for them to see.

Blog blog blog about what works, what doesn’t. Visit my blogroll to see other bloggers/teachers who are doing great things.

In particular I want to teach forever, so you want to teach, teachers at risk, The Jose Vilson, dy/dan, Science Teacher, ..oh, they’re all good…

friend: I will look at that again… the mini assignment at the door is a good idea. I’ve been doing the agenda on the board – most of them notice it ;)
I’m spending all my preps this week in other classes – I know most teachers are having the same problems as I am -if nothing else, maybe the visits will help me not to be so hard on myself.
it’s fine if you blog about our chat – and jacq is over 40 as well ;) [in reference to my comment to her friend Jacq’s comment on her wall about 42 being THAT old ;)]

So everyone, I promised that my blogroll rocked. Prove it …

a) Can you give and/or point my friend and any others toward advice when it comes to the reality of teaching in a class like this? In particular practical, tangible advice that she can use in her classroom?
b) How do you still love teaching when it can be SO hard and disheartening at times?

Because there is always light over the horizon…even when the ground seems frozen.

Parents protest ‘time-out’ cage in classroom

Parents protest ‘time-out’ cage in classroom
(Last Updated: Friday, February 9, 2007 | 3:09 PM ET CBC News)

A Shawinigan, Que., teacher who put a nine-year-old student in a lattice cage for misbehaving will not face any disciplinary measures, school board officials said Friday.

The boy’s parents discovered their son, Félix, had been kept in a makeshift cage at Shawinigan’s École St-Paul, after he complained to them he couldn’t see the blackboard.

When they visited the school, they discovered he’d been spending several hours a week in the lattice cage….The local school board director, Claude Leclerc, told Radio-Canada the teacher did nothing wrong by using what he called a time-out area for a difficult student.

I have a few thoughts about this…as I am sure many people do.

My mind goes to a cartoon I saw on the Internet a few months ago. It is a picture of a boy, standing next to his desk, students sitting around him at their desks, and his teacher at her desk. At the back of the class is a huge cage with a pacing tiger and the caption is, “Well, Timmy. It looks like you’ve just earned yourself 10 minutes in the cage with Mr. Whiskers.”

Extreme discipline cases like this reaffirm my belief that teachers are overwhelmed with all that they need to do in a day. An act like this seems desperate to me and I think that if we took the time to think about our values as people and educators, a decision such as to put a child in a caged in area – in front of his peers no less! – would not have been made.

They also reaffirm my belief that we need to build more time into our lives as educators for professional development to help us in dealing with classroom difficulties like this and others. Personally, I think that MELS needs to provide us with time solutions (and the $$ to accompany them) to do so – especially given the present school context of inclusion, integration, and differentiation.

And so, I don’t think that the teacher needs to receive disciplinary measures. Rather, I think that she needs to receive support that will assist her in making appropriate decisions regarding discipline in her classroom. Perhaps the rest of that particular school community could use some as well.

But really, despite all that, I have to ask how could a measure like this have been instated by the teacher and school without parent permission?

I don’t know the whole story, but that is a nagging question for me.

Any thoughts?