Sick Can

If they really don’t care then go the book.  But, as it was with me anyway, their not caring is really just the indication that they don’t understand, that I am too random, too fast and not staying within established meaning. In short, when they don’t care they don’t understand.

I have experimented with this numerous times, deliberately going what I think is too slow – they always understand and “care” when I do that.

Of course, this is connected to discipline and your expectations of them. When you tell them to sit up and square up their shoulders and give you clear eyes, you have to WAIT UNTIL YOU ACTUALLY GET THAT RESPONSE before moving on in class.  Just wait.  If one kid is not up and on it, I just stand there and wait. It is a battle of wills and I always win.

The kids HAVE TO respond if I am standing in front of them in silence while 30 people are waiting for them to do that too.  I have a kind of humorous “HOW DARE YOU not be doing your job in this class?” Sometimes it is not so humorous.  If that one kid wins the mental battle he or she can take ten others with them. 

I have spent the last seven years putting my heart and mind around this stuff, excited about being let out of the SICK CAN that is traditional teaching. Why on earth, then, would I allow some kid in a hoodie decide it ain’t for her or him. It always go back to proactive and aggressive phone calls to parents in the first month of the year.

How can teachers just let some kid go without getting in their face, perceiving it to be the emergency that it really is? Without action, the slack attitude of one kid will waft like bad air in the direction of the others. Who created this smell in your class? Which kid?  Talk to them!

And before you begin each class, wait until all the kids are ready to work. When they are, say “O.K. here are the words, let’s sign em, eyes closed, I’ll do some questioning, you come up with cuteness, I choose or reject, we’ll laugh a little, one of you stands up and we try to solve a problem, failing first and then succeeding and then if even one of you  tunes this out, i will confront you in class, outside of class, after class, in the hallway, on the phone, to your parents, and you will know by the look in my eyes that I mean it.”

These are not people we are here to entertain. We are here to educate them. These are students and there is a huge difference in that they bear responsibility, or the ability to respond (sorry about that cause we’ve all heard the cliche before, but in this case it is true). 

But how can the kids possibly gain this ability to respond unless we tell them how to respond by telling them how to sit, when to speak, and generally how to play the game whenever necessary?  They can’t just guess at how to behave.  My classes now are thirty times more focused now than when I was in the SICK CAN of traditional teaching.

So many kids who look unmotivated really are motivated – someone just allowed them to wear unmotivated looks on their faces and they got to liking it because it was an easy path. No, we are so full of love for them that we can’t even conceive of them feeling like they have permission to be rude in the face of such wonderful and creative stories delivered with such high doses of love just for them and all about them each and every day.

When you say that they really don’t care, I counter with an admittedly pollyannish view that they really do care, they just need a lot of hammer and a little love.  Or a little hammer and lot of love.  Whatever. 

 Our students need us to teach them not just the language, but also how to show up as adults so that things can work in our classrooms, to let the beautiful magic of this method work.  Otherwise, we might as well be back in the  SICK CAN of traditional teaching, with all its bored kids and tortured teachers trying valiently but in vain to make it work because it just can’t get up the taxonomy to the good, sweet, stuff.

Sorry, if I offended anyone with the SICK CAN image. Actually, I am not sorry. I mean to offend. Because a SICK CAN is a SICK CAN and you can’t change that, no matter how many textbooks you sell.


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