It’s been a long time since I’ve published a post, and at this time of the year, with the end just in sight, it’s hard to marshal my thoughts for a coherent post about a single topic. Instead I thought I’d get back into the swing of this blog thing by using my first post in a very long while to just list a few things that have been on my mind lately. Maybe one or all of these will become their own post at a later date, but for now….
- The title of this post is not an error. I really did mean to write that I hope my students fail. I don’t mean I hope they fail an entire course or anything that drastic, but I do hope they fail a test or two along the way. Whether they fail the test because they didn’t prepare or whether they fail because they just aren’t intellectually “there” yet, I hope they fail something before leaving high school. It’s healthy for them. It teaches them how to move on and get it together, how to ask for help, how to adjust. It teaches them that it’s not the end of the world. Too many students are coming to their junior and senior years of high school having never failed. Too many students are leaving high school having never failed.
- I miss being in a 1:1 classroom. You get used to the perks of working in an environment where the kids can Google an image of the incident at Tiananmen Square when you forget to put one in your slideshow rather than stop everything and go search for one yourself. Seems like a small thing, but actually that kind of thing can payoff big time. Can’t wait until next year when the kids all have computers again….
- Having said that, I’ve learned from past experience that closing the laptops is important, too. I’m glad I already went through the transition into a 1:1 environment once. The experience and wisdom I gained that first time around will be used to great advantage next year.
- Cheating is demeaning to all involved but getting students to see this is incredibly difficult these days. I had a student who brazenly admitted that he told students in other classes what was on a test he’d taken earlier in the day and would continue to do so in the future because he knew he might need their help in return. No shame, no guilt, just an acceptance that that’s the way the world works, that’s the way you get ahead apparently. Two days later he had no problem signing his name to the school honor’s pledge on a test in my own class. Anyone want to help me tackle this issue? I’m all ears.
- Every now and then you need to remind yourself why you do what you do, especially at this time of the year. I’m rereading Why Teach? by Mark Edmundson (who also wrote the very thoughtful Why Read?). If you haven’t read either, give them a try.
- The way to a student’s brain is through his stomach…or so I’ve been considering. I was reading a lot of historical fiction over spring break, and I was thinking about why I like historical fiction so much. It’s because reading historical fiction makes me feel like I can see, taste, and smell the past. And then I thought, I need to do more to bring the sights and tastes (but probably not the smells) of the past alive in my own classroom. I’ve been researching historical recipes ever since. My goal is to make, or have my students make, at least one historical recipe per quarter next year. I also want to bring in more guest speakers and more historical artifacts when possible so that students have a chance to have a personal and tactile experience with the past, respectively.
- Teacher recommendations are powerful tools. I have had students tell me that my letter of recommendation was mentioned by their college admissions office as a key factor in gaining entrance or getting a scholarship, especially at those smaller, more elite institutions. The recommendation helped set them apart. Maybe that’s one key in curbing the cheating epidemic. For instance, you can bet I will not write a recommendation for a student who cheats in my classroom and then shows no sign of remorse after the fact. Maybe once a student burns this bridge, especially those highly competitive students who cheat because of the pressure to get into the tier one schools, he will think a little more. Maybe? (Obviously, if they show remorse, this is a different matter altogether.)
- I love seeing and hearing from former students. It reminds me on rough days why I do what I do. Shoutout to Hannah for our recent visit. Rita’s Italian Ice is good at any time of the day. Shoutout to Fox for always recommending good movies and tunes. I’m actually not one of those people who naturally keeps in touch with people. I wish I was better at it, and it’s not because I don’t love and miss people when I’m not with them. It’s really just a matter of being rather absentminded most of the time. So I always appreciate it when former students remind me to keep in touch.