It has been a long term, only five weeks, but boy, the dramas make for difficult times. We have had bullying, theft, consuming alcohol and some drug taking.
A number of the students have brought with them bad attitudes and bad behaviours that make it difficult for me to teach and difficult for other students to learn. Many of the class are doing well and achieving some good results however it is easy to focus on the problems and difficulties.
BUT… a couple of simple glimmers of hope.
The other day all the students were working quietly on their own projects and one of the girls had her book out reading for about half an hour!! She was relaxed and the culture of the room made it possible for her to do so. I was impressed.
One of the students’ mums said she had to go into her son’s room and suggest he switches off the light to go to sleep as it was getting late. I was impressed as he was working on his own project – making the Footy Tipping poster for the class.
Both are great little examples that when students are doing relevant work that is interesting to them then learning can and will take place.
You could have knocked me over with a feather….
I decided to take the few students (7 out of 16) who turned up for class, to McDonalds for lunch as we had a bad day the day before. There were bad attitudes, bad behaviour and disrespect by too many students that day that I started sending them home. I was later to find out what caused most of it…will tell that story another time.
So we rocked up to Maccas and I was hoping those students who turned up would behave properly in public. I had taken some of them out to lunch once before and they were fine. No throwing food, showing off or swearing etc etc.
I wanted to do a little schoolwork after lunch so chose one end of a room with a few tables. The kids sat away from me and left a free table next to me. An elderly lady came into the room and sat down at the table next to me and took out her Sodoku book. I did not have the heart to ask her to move and thought we would fit around the remaining tables.
The kids ate lunch pretty well and it was time for the lesson. I asked them to come and sit together at the remaining tables. They wanted to stay where they were but I insisted they come and join me. As they were coming to the tables the elderly lady asked, “Are you a Christian school?” I was taken back by this comment and said no we were a class from TAFE. I should have asked her why she thought that….I am kicking myself now not using this opportunity for student learning. She asked did I want her to move and I said it was fine to stay there.
The lesson went pretty well and when I looked to see if she was still there she had gone.
Later that day when the kids had all gone their separate ways I pondered again the question and why she would have made that comment.
Maybe she thought their behaviour was typical of a “Christian” school. There was no swearing, no food fights, talking quietly amongst themselves, no showing off and one boy thanked me for buying him lunch. Did she associate bad behaviour with traditional public high schools? I know that just because a student is at a Christian school doesn’t mean they automatically show good behaviour.
Who knows what she was actually thinking. I took it as a compliment and was proud of the students for demonstrating respect to each other, me and those in the restaurant. This encourages me to take them out again.
I will definitely use this as a learning opportunity for the whole class on Monday. This sort of thing must be reinforced and encouraged at every opportunity.
One of my students surprised me the other day. He has been one of those students who just did not know what his interest or passion was. He couldn’t find anything at all that captured his interest to do a project of any kind.
A few days ago he asked me if he could borrow a pair of scissors to open up a disposable camera he had bought to school. This was interesting I thought, he is interested in doing something with electronics. Little did I know he was rewiring it to make a taser. And later in the day the students were having fun using it to zap each other!!
What I also found out later on was that the making of tasers were illegal so we couldn’t capture any videos or photos of his work. What a shame as he demonstrated a great deal of skill and knowledge about the task. I asked him how he learnt to do this and he said he had watched it on YouTube.
I am now trying to think of other “legal” electronic projects that he could now tackle as he impressed me with his initiative in this instance.
Here is a video I quickly produced for a meeting I could not attend to help explain the Big Picture approach I am using for my PreCAL class.
Miss BR asked one day could she go to the local cemetery to do some photography there with Miss KF. Both girls were passionate about photography and had ideas to dress up (in old fashioned corsets and other interesting clothing) using the gravestones as a backdrop.
Great I thought!! Students are finally showing some initiative for their own learning.
The student tendency is to wait for the teacher to tell them what to do. This is what school is about. It does not usually matter what I want to do. This is the attitude I wanted to change.
Another student who loves cars wanted to do a project on UFC (martial arts fighting). Great!!
Today students were all working on their own projects and initiatives and they did not ask to stop for lunch and were so absorbed with their work. It’s finally happening.
I have been teaching this group of students now for 3 weeks. They started as a very meek group not willing to say boo. The second week they were getting more comfortable with each other and enjoying each other’s company.
One boy, who suffers with anxiety issues, spent much of the first week with his head in his hands and saying he had headaches. The second week that behaviour had gone and he was opening up and having a good time. He also did a talk in front of the class.
The third week and they were starting to notice issues and behavioural quirks in others that annoyed them. And one lesson with another teacher showed their worst behaviour and inability as a group to work together.
I spent the last two days of the week cancelling all classes and spending the time doing one on one meetings with each student to confirm the culture of learning I am expecting. For many it was encouraging them that things will improve in time as each person works hard to respect others in the class.
I constantly reminded myself over the 3 weeks that it is indeed, “One student at a time!” (The Big Picture mantra)