There are good ones, too!
I have a nasty tendency to get a little negative on this blog sometimes. Okay, so I've got a nasty tendency to get a lot negative sometimes. But there is an explanation for that. Although I frequently argue that public schools are doing a much better job than we're given credit for, I think it's essential that we improve. That being the case, it's natural to focus on problems. And when you focus on problems, you tend to get negative. After my last post, Elizabeth said this:
You sure have some dumb kids! I'm surprised you haven't become a total burnout case.
It occured to me that maybe I've been getting a little too negative, so it's time to put things in perspective.
I have had some "dumb" kids, but for every one of them, I've had others who were clearly smarter than I ever was. These kids can finish reading an assignment in about half the time it takes others, and their comprehension is flawless. They ask great questions, and it seems that every time they're called on they have the correct answers. Sometimes they don't raise their hands as often as they could because they don't want to be seen as showing off. In other words, their social skills are as good as their academic ones. When I put them in groups, I know that they will lead their groups and their groups’ work will be excellent. When I grade objective tests and find any of their answers wrong, I know I better go back and check the key. I usually find that I'm the one who made a mistake.
I have complained a lot on this blog about "students" whose effort is miserable, but for every kid I have had like that, I've had others who worked harder than I ever did when I was in school. I'm not talking about historical wizards, but some of them consistently earn top grades because of their work ethic and persistence. It takes them longer to read assignments than some of the other students, but they get it done. When they answer questions orally in class, they'll be wrong as often as they are right. They'll have to study longer for a test than those really bright students, but they'll put in the work, and if they don't get as high a score, they'll be close.
I have had kids who are loud and obnoxious, but for every one of them I've had some of those quiet, reliable ones--kids who never raise their hands, but always have their assignments done and are always prepared for tests. Many experts emphasize student participation in class, and I don't deny the importance of that. As a teacher, I certainly want a fair amount of students to raise their hands, ask and answer questions, and participate in other ways, but as I often tell parents jokingly, the more I've taught, the more I've grown to appreciate those quiet kids. They may not say much, but you'd have to be a fool not to admire their quiet diligence.
I have had kids who are so surly that you take a risk if you even say "hello" to them, but for every one of them I've had others with fantastic personalities and senses of humor. These are kids who I know I can tease, and they'll always have smiles on their faces when I do. If I take a shot at them, they'll take a shot right back at me, but they have great common sense, and they rarely go too far. I like just about all of my students, but I have to admit that it's the ones I "insult" that I usually like the most. They make the class more fun for everyone, including me. Heck, especially me.
I have had classes that I've gotten headaches just thinking about, but I've also had some fantastic ones. I walk into the room and see smiling faces, and those smiling faces are the result of the students’ happiness at seeing me and being in the class. Students come to class having done the assignments, so when I bring up a subject, almost every one of them knows what I'm talking about. When I ask questions, hands shoot up, and the biggest problem is keeping students from blurting out answers before I call on someone. Not only do they answer my questions, but they ask me questions because they are actually interested. When we have class discussions, they get excited and even show some emotion when they argue about the subjects with which we're dealing. When someone says something funny, it's not meant to hurt anyone, and if there's a lot of laughter, I don't have to worry that this is going to cause the class to reel out of control. No that is not a dream, and it's not just a description of an ideal situation. I really have had classes like that.
So I want people like Elizabeth to know that although I've had my share of bad students and bad classes, I've also had more than my share of good ones. It's the lousy ones who give me the most material for my blog, but it is those great kids and classes that put a smile on my face every morning that I walk into our school.