Teaching when no one wants to be in class

I don’t show many videos. I think that you have to be really careful about what media you use in a classroom. Just like anything we do as teachers, we need to make sure that what we are using is relevant, will further the education of our students, and provides another way to explain/teach/build the content you are teaching. IMG_7568

Today was a day where it felt like I had to force people to pay attention. It was glorious outside after a long winter, and that certainly played into it. I was employing every sneaky “I like how __ is listening,” “I like how __ is sitting,”  trick I have.

***ALERT. I just read those sentences. Why am I saying “I like how?” I mean, that’s what we’re taught to say. Maybe I change that. Maybe I say it more like this: “I’m noticing how ____ is making great choices,” “I’m noticing that ____ has her hands to herself. Wow, that is hard!” Why am I always using “I like?” Maybe that is not what is going to grab their attention-LIKE EVER.

So, in thinking about my day, I literally googled “teaching when no one wants to be in class.” And this is the second link: 

7 reasons you might not want to teach anymore

What?

Ok. I won’t lie to you. Vulnerability is a superpower. When we are vulnerable we connect and understand each other. I’ll be vulnerable.

This has been THE hardest year of my teaching career, bar-none. I have pondered more than once this year if I am truly cut out for this line of work. I fantasized for a while about quitting and not returning, right in the middle of this school year. 29 kids and major-severe behavior issues were more than emotionally exhausting. I had some friends that really really struggled with just being in school. t was professionally embarrassing, socially embarrassing, and financially draining when I bought the nexthingthatwillsavemebecauseithasto that inevitably didn’t work and I looked for the next magic bullet. I went home pissed off every day for almost 5 months and went to sleep in an RV that rocked when anyone moved. I had prolific nightmares about every single emotional trigger and headache in my life. I was miserable.

When we are new teachers we don’t realize that the major exhaustion of teaching comes from the emotional toll of teaching young people. It does not really come from the expectations on us from common assessment, grades, proficiency, parent-teacher conferences, our principal’s evaluation, observed lessons, our paycheck, our benefits, etc.

The emotional toll of being around 28+ students every day and helping them learn how to be humans in a small microcosm with other humans is intense beyond measure. It would be hard for adults to handle what we ask five year olds to handle.

TIME TO DO MATH. NO YOU CAN’T DO ___. TIME TO SIT ON THE RUG. NO, YOU CAN’T GO PEE NOW. NOPE. LOST YOUR CHANCE, SHOULD’VE GONE ALREADY. CLEAN UP TIME. NO, SORRY, YOU CAN’T KEEP DOING THAT PROJECT YOU ARE 100% ENGAGED IN RIGHT NOW. YOU MUST PUT IT AWAY AND DO ___ RIGHT NOW.

Shoot me.

I went to get my hair cut tonight. I had to postpone it a month because I felt too broke to spend $40 to get my hair cut a few weeks ago. (I make a decent living, but I struggle with student loans) As she was cutting my hair I unleashed a maelstrom of thoughts and connections I’d made since the last time we talked. (She’s so gracious!)  Her mom was a teacher. And many of her clients are teachers, and she’s hearing this exhaustion from many. She said that many teacher clients are leaving education: retiring early or considering bucking it for something else. The thing that is overwhelmingly frustrating for the teachers in her chair is “these kids these days.”

I mean, HEY, I SEE YOU. I get it. Children today are completely different than the children MY children (that are only 18 and 22) grew up with. It is a rapidly changing world. The children I have in my class now are living in a different culture than the students I had in 2006 as a student teacher.

My stylist and I talked about how completely different this generation is, how it is impossible to compare because 30 years ago when we were in high school-it was rare to have a home computer. It was rare to have a two-parent working household. It was still new to have a VHS or Beta machine. We might have a button-dial phone, we might still be rocking the radial dial phone.  Cordless phones were also rare. There was that long cord to deal with. TV remotes without cords were new tech.

If we wanted to watch something on TV we had to show up right then at that exact moment and be PRESENT. We didn’t talk because there was no rewinding TV. We didn’t go on our phones/tablets/laptops simultaneously while watching TV (the biggest media we consumed every day besides radio), and we ran to the bathroom in the commercial, hoping we beat our sister there so we got out and back in front of the TV before the Cosby Show came back on. (No matter how reprehensible Cosby ended up being as a human, that show was delightful as a teenager.) When we wanted the latest single by an artist we liked, we had to buy an EP tape, or a 45 disc. There was no iTunes, there were no iPhones. There were no ATM cards, there were no pay your bills online.

Everything we did, in all of our consumption of media and culture, was done in real time. When you think about just how complicated this sounds now, in 2018,  it is a miracle any of us survived.

But the lesson here is we are teaching children that are being raised in a totally different culture that cannot be compared to any other culture before it (but can be compared to the volume of change experienced by the culture).  These children are living in a world where ideas and ways of thinking and learning are greatly influenced and changed by the technological advances of the last 20-30 years. The culture has changed in a way that even their parents, from mid-20s to early 40s, don’t even fully understand.

The only time in our country’s recent evolution that changed us anywhere as much was the advent of technology during the Industrial Revolution.

What does all this mean for me as a Kindergarten teacher in the farmland of Halsey, Oregon, in 2018?

  • It means that I need to teach children how to advance their problem solving skills in a creative and completely NEW WAY. It means tech is highly involved in this process.
  • It means that I have to help children learn to be present. How? Example: it means maybe I tell them a story from my imagination-no book, no video, just my voice, and their imaginations engaged with mine.
  • I must challenge them to sometimes reject the high-tech and go low-tech to see what they can learn. Example: what can we learn from listening to audio only vs. a video with audio?
  • It means I must bring the real world to them. How? I must challenge them to engage. Being relevant for the 21st century means that I document with my camera phone, I text parents, I create hand outs with photos of them, I email, I blog.

I brilliantly brought 1500 ladybugs into my classroom yesterday. I thought i was a genius. I thought a terrarium with a bunch of ladybugs would be a great, dynamic display of animal life, and that the children could learn from it, I had no idea what kind of escape artists they are. So, after two days of teaching with them getting out all day, I took the tank outside and let the children watch as they flew around, landed on them, crawled away.

I gotta say, it was for sure the highlight of the day. We were all in the moment.

IMG_7563Carpe Diem, friends.

 

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4 thoughts on “Teaching when no one wants to be in class

  1. Hi Jen,

    it is not easy to work with kids. I have two and sometimes they drive me crazy. We need a lot of patience for that. My father and my sisters are teachers . It is nice occupation but sometimes it is very hard ! Good luck

    1. Thanks Ben!

  2. I love teaching with you and reading your blog! You are a talented, imperfect human and I am honoured to call you my friend.

    1. Thank you sweet friend.

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