Monday, October 31, 2011

Good Students of Life

This year I advise twenty freshmen (and they are stuck with me until they graduate--hahahhaha).  I look forward to the day when I see each and every one of those students cross the stage to receive their diplomas.  These students, with both burdens and talents, need direction, boundaries, nurturing, encouragement, and goals to reach.  

My wish is that this year's freshmen become good students of life.  I want them to know they need to be advocates for themselves.  It is a sign of strength to ask for help when they are stuck. I want them to know that confidence comes from facing fears, from using obstacles as new avenues not dead ends.  I want them to see the moment as an opportunity, not something that can be saved for later.  I want them to use their gifts and talents with 100% effort, and if they don't, I want them to know a fresh start is only a decision away. Finally, and most importantly, I want my advisees to see they are no better and no worse than any other person.  We all have minds and hearts, hopes and worries, gains and losses, so why not treat each other with respect and open mindedness?

Good students of life show up, follow through on commitments, and have a good time doing what needs to be done because life is too short to stop being a student, which is a privilege and a responsibility that includes much more than doing homework and getting good grades.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Is it a Mistake?

1.  To give half credit when work is redone.

2.  To value that students meet deadlines more than the work turned in.

3.  To avoid asking students to evaluate teachers early and often.

4.  To ignore issues that arise.

5. To work in isolation when trying to solve problems.

6.  To punish rather than postively reinforce.

7.  To not have clear, reasonable consequences for students who misbehave.

8.  To have power struggles.

9.  To punish students who are parents or who have full time jobs.

10.  To expect less than the best from our students.

11.  To create lessons that are not real world.

12.  To assume our students won't do homework so we don't make them do it.

13.  To shut down students with words or looks or assumptions.

14.  To forget that students choose to learn from us.

15.  To not listen when students say they do not understand.

16. To blame teachers when students do not succeed.

17.  To allow students to avoid doing what it takes to learn in the classroom.

18.  To avoid having frank but gentle conversations when students need correcting, direction, or are clearly having trouble coping in class.

19.  To assume students will come to the teacher if they have questions, concerns, issues, or need to advocate for themselves.

20.  To allow lack of discipline to hinder students' classroom experience.

I have struggled with the above list at some point in my career, even now after eighteen years in the profession I have not arrived at the magical right answer in all situations (Rats!).  Teaching material is pretty simple-- present a skill, an idea, an event, a coping mechanism--but presenting the material in ways that prove the teacher believes all students are capable takes creative thinking, problem solving, reflection, and constant revamping.  All students learn differently, are bogged down by different burdens, are trying to grow into themselves at different rates, have different values and goals that may or may not match teacher expectations, and face the assumptions teachers have about them.  As I review the above list, I'm thinking about what I need to work on so students get what they need from my classroom and my advisory time.  Teachers have a short period of time when they can intervene and do their best to be the bridge students need to get on with the rest of their lives as productive citizens.  I aim to continue asking myself the tough questions so that my mistakes can be corrected and my students know they are what matters in the classroom.