I was much happier with my teaching style a couple of years ago. I feel like I have lost some of my enthusiasm and patience over time and need to get back to the way it was. But how do you reverse time? As we all know, time passes quickly, and with the advent of technology changes, time changes exponentially. I have to change with them. I am willing to change. However, I can’t change until I know what I have done wrong. How can you change if you don’t know where you went off course?
I would hate to blame the students I work with. I would hate to say that I enjoyed teaching a couple of years ago more because the kids were different. I would hate to say that these former students were more engaged in learning and more committed to doing the work. Too many teachers look back and don’t want to admit that they have changed and blame it on the kids. I have heard over and over, “Teaching just isn’t like it used to be. The kids just don’t try like they used to.” I think it is time for me to try harder.
So the first step in this process is to analyze what I did a few years ago that I don’t do now. Hmmmm… I did lesson plan more. I thought through more details of the lessons. I had wrote them, I crossed off what we got done, I made notes of what we didn’t get done. So how did this make me a better teacher? Obviously, you can’t do a great job if you are flying by the seat of your pants every day. However, the devil’s advocate in me also wants to jump in and say some of my best lessons have come from flying by the seat of my pants.
Another thing that I have done differently is that I am expecting students to take notes, but not modeling it for them like I used to. I used to go over the notes, they would watch me write them down, talk about them, and have them add to the notes. I expected the notes and I periodically asked to see them. Now, I am asking students to take notes, I give them the basics and expect them to take notes, but they don’t. Then I don’t ask to see them, because I know they don’t exist. I also used to make them keep everything in a notebook, and then referred back to those notes, but in an effort to be green and use less paper, I have not made them do this. Am I providing them too much in the way of digital notes because I have the technology to do so, and they are getting lazy because of it? Maybe I should expect more.
Lately I have been frustrated by the lack of effort by the students. They give half the effort they should on assignments. They complain when we try something new. They say things like, “this sucks,” or they mutter under their breath and act like they are being tortured. I think part of their frustration is that they feel like they don’t have time to do the work they are asked. They think they are too busy. The kids weren’t any busier back a few years ago than they are now, so what is the difference? I can wager a guess, but they wouldn’t like the answer. A few years ago, they weren’t texting on their phones nonstop all night and they weren’t on Facebook all night chatting and snooping into their friends’ pictures and status updates. They weren’t sucked into an online life that assists them in losing track of time.
I used to spend a lot of time going over the project guidelines and creating grading rubrics to match their projects. I have always asked the students to write notes in the margins or to ask questions they don’t understand anything they might be graded on. Recently I had the students do a project, I went over the guidelines, and handed out the rubric. The students handed in a rough draft and I spent a lot of time making comments, and using the rubric to show them how to improve. A week later when they turned in their final drafts, they only made superficial changes and did not change or improve anything major. I wasted all that time making comments and suggestions for improvement. I am not sure if it was laziness on their part, or if they did not understand how a rubric works, or if they ran out of time, but there was no improvement. No effort. Such a letdown!
They never write down assignments. They never worry about due dates. They think they are entitled to turn things in on their own timeline. I used to make the kids write down due dates and check them off. Originally, I thought that the digital submission of files would help those who were less organized. They could see in their sent box whether they sent in their assignments. I would have a copy and there would be less “losing” of papers. However, now the excuse is, “you must not have gotten it.” Or, they say I sent it and I thought you got it. So now students need to “send a copy to me and to yourself” at the same time (which I can see in the header of the email).
"Going back to the basics" sounds so cliche. I am not teaching junior high students, I am working with high school students, but maybe this will help. Maybe reiterating the basics will bring them around to finding out what is important before we start the second semester and inevitably find the senioritis disease, and the end of the year slide the other students seem to fall into.