Relating to students is among the most essential and most rewarding aspects of teaching. Unfortunately, it is also among the most challenging at times. The biggest challenge for me personally is understanding the apathetic students, the students that seem to lack curiosity for the world around them and a genuine joy of learning. The ones who consistently say things like, “I’m never going to use this,” “This is boring,” or “Do I have to do this?”
On one level, I just find these kinds of comments rude. I don’t love every aspect of my work, but I’m certainly not going to voice these kinds of comments in a faculty meeting to my boss. On another level, it is just plain disheartening to hear, especially when you have spent a great deal of time preparing for a class and trying to come up with interesting and challenging assignments.
My friend and colleague Karen McVay recently alerted me to a book that I’m hoping will get the wheels turning in my head as to how I can do a better job relating to students when they voice these kinds of feelings towards my class in particular or school and education in general. (For the most part, I ignore these kinds of comments for as long as I can before getting frustrated enough to challenge a student. Not really effective, I know.) The book is called The Passion-Driven Classroom by Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvoid. While the book is more geared towards elementary and middle school, I think the ideas could be adapted to high school as well. Karen and I are going to read the book together and meet to discuss our thoughts and ideas. And perhaps this is part of the process of creating passion for learning in the classroom – talking to other colleagues who are passionate about what they do and who can in turn spark that kind of passion in yourself. I’ll post more as we move through the book.
Also, on a related note, if you haven’t seen the documentary Waiting for Superman about the American public education system, you should. I show the film to my government students each semester to show the role of government in our education system, the role of interest groups like unions in terms of policy decisions, and the role of education in a healthy, productive nation. In all honesty, it can be depressing to watch, but it can also re-energize teachers and students alike to do better.