Wednesday, May 12, 2004

student stress and teachers who question their practice

The other day a student in my Y12 (senior) English class made an interesting comment.

"Why is English as a subject so disorganised? I mean we come in to class not really knowing what we are doing from one day to the next. We sit down and try and work out what we are doing today! In other subjects we know what we are doing and what we are working towards. It been this way for years - since maybe Year 9."

I wasn't expecting this kind of question.

Trying to be understanding, I listened and nodded and said, 'Uh, huh ... uh, huh' while he spoke, but inside I was wondering where this was coming from. This student often shares his opinion on my teaching and teachers in general and can be quite arrogant and difficult - he has an air of 'I'm better than you, and will be better than you forever!' He can also be fairly intimidating (especially for some of the more sensitive souls in class. He also has some insightful things to say as well and generally participates well in class discussion.

At first, at least to myself, I thought this was strange since I am fairly anal about helping the students contextualise the work we are doing; feel familiar with how the course fits together; what assessment they are required to do and when it takes place (I gave them an outline of the unit in early FEB that had all assessment dates and I remind them regularly; my expectations of them, etc. etc. I have also started emailing the class weekly to let them know what they should be doing in terms of their English studies and the kinds of work that are coming up. I thought this would overcome some of the issues this young man was talking about.

He says he hasn't checked his email for ages ...

He also says he hasn't referred to the course outline recently ...

I found out later that he had a 'Legal Studies' assessment task the next class and he was very unprepared. A little projection perhaps?

So the following day, I wrote up on the board a list of things I thought they should be doing to prepare for an assessment task they are doing next week, "What you should be doing this week for English". I gave them three tasks. Let's hope this young fellow wrote this down.

I mean I could go around to his house and remind him personally?

I don't mean the sarcasm, only that most of the other students I think understand what we are trying to do as a class. But this class is a strange one - some fantastic students whoa are going to do very well (and how much will be due to my own influence?) and there are a bunch of others that just want to get through and that's enough. Helping both of these groups get the most out of this year is proving a challenge, but I think we are 'kicking some goals'.

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