More and more I see that it’s all about reading. Reading is the foundation we build everything upon. I can see it clear as day in my classes – if a student doesn’t get the reading portion, they struggle in everything else. Even math, which doesn’t need reading skills per se, is something they struggle with. Because Math has a form of reading too – number sentences are like reading. You read from left to right, – 3 + 4 = 7. Three plus four equals seven. And that’s not even mentioning story problems.
But I think it’s more than that. I think reading unlocks something in the brain. It’s like a video game, where you can’t advance to the next level until you’ve picked up enough coins or somehow aquired a weapon or magic pouch or something. You just can’t succeed until you’ve learned the reading portion of our life videogame.
Teaching 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 year olds reading I know that one size of instruction does not fit all. The 6 year olds especially need phonics and sentence work. They need to work on sounding out words, and getting those words so they then DON’T have to sound them out. But the 8 and 9 year olds need to start learning to LOVE reading, and I think that’s the trickiest part. You can’t teach love. You’ve got to somehow help it grow. I’m from the “work hard and it will pay off” school of thought, but you have to remember that more pushing will not make them love reading. Somehow making them realize that it’s THEM who wants to read – not just you who is making them read, is the key to unlocking the next level. All you need is patience, understanding, perseverence, and some really awesome reading material.
The hours and days of a teacher are sometimes long and stressful. Its become something of a cliche to say that a teacher doesn’t make much money. Is it worth it? I just got to open someones eyes to the world of reading. Saw the recognition spark fly. They will use that skill their whole lives. Oh yea its worth it.
What do you do when you have a difficult student to contend with? That’s a very big problem for teachers, and definitely not an easy fix (they never are, are they?)
I believe every year I have at least one student who commands more attention from me than others. Sometimes there are three or four (sometimes there are 27!) But every year there are at LEAST one of them. It’s important to think of them as exciting challenges, like flying down a zip line in the rainforest, or climbing the highest rock wall at REI. They are a challenge to overcome, and we will feel like superstars when we survive!
It’s normal for there to be challenges, and it’s normal for those challenges to take more of your time. It’s the nature of teaching. A police man is in charge of ALL of our safety, but there are certain people in your neighborhood, I”m sure, who get more of his attention than others. And when a carpenter works on ornate cabnitry they’ll take their time, but will probably breeze thorugh a simple pine bench. Teachers have projects that take a little more of their time than others, and that’s okay.
What isn’t okay, though, is to short change the pine bench (students who need less guidance). We need to make sure they are not neglected. One way to do this is to assign student helpers, who can give assistance for minor problems – usually those students who are done early. For things they can’t handle, I have a comment/question box. Students who need something, but I am otherwise engaged, should skip the problem and move on in the questions. If they still need help (or if it’s something personal or not urgent) they can write it down, and I’ll get to look though the comments/questions later and can make sure everyone is attended to. Otherwise they might get lost in the shuffle.
But that still doesn’t attend to the difficult student, and there are BOOKS written about that. One of them that is helpful is “The tough kids toolbox“. It’s got a lot of resources. It depends on the situation, but I will say that consistency helps – don’t let him get away with one thing once and then punish it later when you’ve finally “had enough.” You have to be consistent, or they’ll just play the numbers. “well, I got punished two times ago, so I figure I can do it once or twice before she blows up again…” Of course, you’ve also got to pick your battles – just be consistent on the battles you DO pick.
But you’ll go back and forth on this – am I being too stern, not stern enough….you’ll make yourself sick. Just do what you think is right, and not worry too much about “but he’s not LEARNING anything.” You’re doing your best, and he or she wouldn’t be getting a better education anywhere else. Stop the questioning of yourself and you’ll do a lot better.
So – in short – make sure you don’t neglect the others, but realize they’re not going to get equal time. Try your best with them, and then let it go. You only have them for maybe 4 hours a day at most. You just do what you can. The rest is up to the PARENTS. 🙂
Teaching is a funny occupation. It’s not a straightforward business where you create a product and the public buys your product. But in a way, I am a salesman. I’m selling knowledge, and the kids are the ones buying it. I have to present it to them in a way they will want to buy it, or they’ll shut down or zone out and not retain anything I’m teaching them. But at the same time, the ones who are REALLY paying for it are the parents. And their idea of what good education is – what they actually want to PAY FOR – might be different than what the kids want to buy. How do you sell to one without alienating the other? What happens when a parent wants you to teach in a way the kids won’t actually learn? It’s a tightrope teachers constantly have to walk (not to mention all the additional considerations of legislation) – but as long as we’re TEACHING them, and they are actually LEARNING – you couldn’t ask for anything more.