“But what if we don’t want to do that?”
I had a 3rd grader ask me this absurd question after I introduced a lesson the other day. As in, I don’t want to do this lesson, what else do you have lined up for me? I can’t tell you how many times I have students ask me versions of this question. Since when did it become optional to do the lesson the teacher is teaching?
I have a particular 2nd grade class that always argues over who is at the end of the line. It’s usually the same three students. It doesn’t matter where I place them in line or how I call them to line up, the moment my back is turned, these students are at the end of the line, pushing and arguing over who gets to be at the end. Finally, determined to resolve the problem once and for all, I asked the classroom teacher if she has a specific line “ender”, my intention, of course, was to be able to say, “so-and-so is the line ender, problem solved.” The teacher replied to me, “We do… it changes every week… I don’t know who it is this week… I guess I could check…” So, you have classroom jobs but don’t actually check to make sure they are being done? Actually, that explains a lot. I now understand why I have so many difficulties with your class. Thank you.
The other day, while my 4th graders were working on coil pots, one girl came up to me for help and complained that working with clay was ruining her manicure. Her friend responded, “Well, you know we have art on Tuesdays, you should have waited.” Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “For real? You’re 9! Maybe 10. What are you doing getting professional manicures? Go get dirty. You have plenty of time to worry about your nails when you’re a teenager.” I’ve never had a manicure. Why? Because I work with clay and paint on a daily basis. Shortly after we convinced pretty-nail-girl to work the clay herself, the friend asked me, “why did you decide to become an art teacher?” “Because I like to work with my hands and get dirty,” I replied. Pretty-nail-girl sneered a little.
We give 6th grade assessments in our county. All students participate, and then we’re asked to submit a random sampling of the work (chosen by someone else). We’re not allowed to assist the students with their work, so you can imagine the range of work that gets done. At the end of the assessment, I watch as students turn in their projects, and I often cringe and think, “Ooh, I hope they don’t pick yours. Were you not even listening to the requirements?” And every year, without fail, the students who were the least successful are the students who are randomly selected. It pains me to send in their work when I know that there are so many stronger pieces that could have been chosen. So. Many.
The work is then scored and the data is used to assess… something. I’m not really sure of the details. I just know that the data is used for something. They used to score each school and each teacher based on these assessments, but they stopped doing that. Thank goodness, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling embarrassed when I submit photos of the poorly crafted work. I want to amend my submission with, “But wait! Look at all this good work that was made. Wouldn’t you rather assess this?” Welcome to the state of education today.
Lately, I find that bad behavior is being brushed off and explained away with excuses (by classroom teachers and administration alike). “Well, we’ve been having a lot of snow days lately, so you should expect the students to be off.” “Well, keep in mind it’s the week before break, so you should understand that the classes are going to be squirrely.” Well, this is our (1st)(2nd)(3rd) full week of school since (snow days)(break) so you can imagine the students are struggling.”
Whatever happened to accountability? If you keep explaining away bad behavior, when do students actually learn how to behave? If we don’t hold them accountable for their behavior, ever, why would they choose to behave? It’s getting pretty aggravating.
A 2nd grade class was cleaning up, and one girl noticed that there wasn’t much work for the Floor Cleaners to do since there wasn’t any mess. She explained, “it’s not like someone gave birth under the table.” Huh? Say what now? Okay then…
I was talking to my art teacher cohort’s long term substitute today. She’s subbed long-term for me in the past, as well as for other art teachers, even though it isn’t her field. Today she kept going on about how much work is involved in teaching art (not in a complaining way, but in an understanding, sympathetic way). She compared it to what regular classroom teachers do, “anyone can photocopy a math worksheet, but what you art teachers have to do for prep is unbelievable, and physical, all the lifting, bending, paper cutting… there’s so much prep work involved.” She’s great, for so many reasons, and we always appreciate the extra mile she goes for us. I sometimes wish we could get regular classroom teachers or administration to fill-in for us for a week. What an eye opener that would be, am I right?