Saturday, October 6, 2007


That is the word that I would use to describe my experience thus far. I have been unable to accomplish my academic goals. My efforts to facilitate learning have flopped; my application of best practices are ineffective. And I have had to ask myself why.

Through conversation with fellow teachers with far greater experience, I have been told repeatedly that the students “don’t care”. Being an eternal optimist in the potential of students, I felt that perhaps I could motivate my students. Many refuse to talk; literally looking in a different direction and ignoring the fact that I call their names. I have to contort my body to find their eyes, which then roll as I’m asked “what”. I am used to the idea of difficult students. But my frustration is compounded by the fact that the difficult students represent a majority. I feel as though I live in the “Bizzaro world” described on an episode of Seinfeld. Last year I would have 1-3 students out of 25 fail my tests. I now have 1-3 pass. And the results are drastically different. 10-20% of the class get less than 30%. I have been told to be happy with these results (which I find appalling and depressing). Last year only 15% of students passed history. Many of those that failed are now in my class.

I continue to be optimistic, believing that as long as I follow what I know, I will see some results. Lisa Delpit in “teaching other peoples children” describes the need in First Nations Communities to connect to culture and ancestry. My students don’t respect their culture or ancestors and don’t know their history. Trying to teach them their history and culture (outside of the curriculum requirements) was met by the same response as all classes. Lecture is like talking to a wall. Questions are not answered, and asking specific students results in shrugs or being ignored. Students don’t read or talk for jigsaws, they don’t speak to one another in group discussions. They won’t create non-linguistic representations… the only thing they will do is take endless notes. But this is an ineffective means of learning, and I continue to try what I know will work through the hostility.

I had my art classes create personal representations and the results, although creative, are disturbing as they were created by 11 and 12 year olds.


Kennie said...

Hang in there Joe! Give me a call if you need to vent!

Kennie said...

And my journey keeps getting better.... I"m now teaching grade 2 art (hehehe! so much for all of those years of adult education eh?)

Benjamin Jancewicz said...

I've been reading along, and I knew I'd eventually come across a post like this. The turnover rate at JSMS is astronomical. Most teachers cite it as the most difficult place they have ever worked.

You're right; kids don't care. They don't see the point. They're stuck on the reservation, no where to go, nothing to do, either short term or long term. Drugs and alcohol reign supreme as a getaway, even for kids in Grade 3 and 4.

But JSMS is their one ticket out of there. I wish you could see all of us who have made it out. There are an entire league of JSMS graduates that have made it through the fire...

Kennie's mom said...

Hang in there Joe. Know that you are making a difference even if your students appear indifferent. They are listening. Don't give up on them! They are counting on you.

Anonymous said...

Right on Ben...right on...RECKANIIIIZE!