Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When to be severe? When to take it mellow?

Mmm it's now been over two weeks that I've been doing my darndest to put some English into the heads of these 17 fifteen year olds. I must say, it's not been easy. A good half the class actually does its homework, tries to be present in class and are pleasant. But there's a good handful that make it excessively hard to keep order and have sufficient calm and silence to teach.

Okay, what are the many methods to get their attention available to me? So far, going silent and waiting for them to get themselves together isn't working as those who don't care, clearly care nothing for their 'friends', i.e. fellow students and even less for eventually speaking English. Okay. That works for the math teacher, but not me. So, there is separating the difficult ones, calling them on their pranks, ejecting them from class, and now, threatening detention for those who've not handed in their homework.

Oh this is not how I wanted to teach. I see that I've a job of bringing the class together as a class. For example, in trying to get them to learn and read aloud the poem Twas the Night Before Christmas -- and to work on the irregular verbs in their past tenses -- they don't hear each other, and they don't listen to me, and thus we are never in sync. This is unusual in a Steiner school where kids have music, poetry, rhythms and group activities from the early years. However, in this class there are only 4 kids who've been in the school from 1st grade. Most are recent arrivals over the past two years. And I feel the difference. I get that for the Steiner kids, learning the poem, saying it aloud, memorizing it and getting to the point of being able to recite it is completely doable. But for the new kids it is an insurmountable mountain. And, they just don't care.

It seems most sad that I need to force them to learn. But I suppose this is the state of many a teacher? I should be grateful, and I am, for the kids in the class who are bright and do all their homework in neat and easy to read handwriting, and try, truly try to learn what I'm conveying to them.

So yes, I am not too proud to ask for help. But I am sad that this help is in the form of teachers who have stronger personalities, and yes, who threaten detention after school hours, notes to the parents, etc., But what to do with apathy and serious attitude? What to do with kids who clearly don't want to be there and who don't care that they're destroying the chances of others to learn? The age of fifteen -- nearly adult? an age to be held responsible, and yet also an age where adult authority and anger can at times sway behavior, or simply provoke it further.

Meantime, I've mostly conveyed the various possibilities of the future tenses -- and suggested they listen to the Black Eyed Peas song Showdown which features the classic phrase "when there is' in the present followed by 'there will' in the future." As the equivalent phrase would be future - future in French, it is just another example of something the kids need to integrate. A rule to memorize.

Getting ready to begin the conditional -- now for this there are oodles of songs, both old standards and new ones, including the French singer Soprano's song about Hiro, that can be used to get the lesson across.

However, I opted, nonetheless, to begin O'Henry's The Gift of the Magi yesterday. We shall see how much I can get through with them, how much they understand, and whether they are willing to do the work.

Onward I go. Stretching, pulling, tugging, nudging, optimism and zen my main states of being.


Sharyn Ekbergh said...

I would use as many modern texts as possible so that they are interested. Comic books, songs and movies. Pop culture.
We like O. Henry but the kids would probably prefer Spiderman.

nathalie said...

I tend to agree with Zuleme.
Good luck Madeleine!