Thursday, September 29, 2005

Inductive? Deductive? Just give me the answer.

I am fortunate to be a Spanish teacher. I can honestly say that today I did my first official deductive Spanish lesson, a grammar lecture, first of the year. Throughout the day the room was silent except for the scribbling of notes. My students were quiet, and seemed comfortable, as if they were more accustomed to this rigid, structured inundation of meaningless grammatical terms. For today, it wasn’t a bad change of pace. In fact I am happy to show them how Spanish can be a completely different than the way we learn most days, when I talk and jump around and point and have them do the same in order to come to some sort of conclusion as to what means what.

Surprisingly I have discovered inductive lessons tend to frustrate my students, to loose their attention. They want the straight, neat and tidy answers: x=y, a+b=c. Filling in blanks, using individual logic skills, reaching an independent conclusion apparently requires too much energy and leaves too much room for error. I’m not certain why they still get worked up when I don’t give them the answer right away in deductive form since eventually I always do give them the correct information. Needless to say, their hesitancy only indicates to me that the box continuously be pushed.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

en la aula

Classroom management. (I scoff with good-natured(?) sarcasm.) My classroom management plan (Inward chuckle. Does that exist?)… After three weeks as a teacher I am not sure what it is that I do each day or that my students interpret as my exact actions/reactions. There are so many of them. So many individuals constituting the chaotic mobs of 25 to 30 affectionately termed “classes.” These are my kids. My kids for the year, the complexities of each individual, and the strange interconnectedness found between each of them within the individual class periods creates social and academic settings seemingly, at least at this point, beyond the observation and analysis of one person, especially not the one person who is gifted the responsibility of instruction.

What I think I may know /What I have experienced exhaustedly and concluded at this juncture: It seems absolutely true that the general success of managing a classroom lies in keeping them busy. The busier they are, the less I have to employ the consequence list, which equates to fewer circular arguments, fewer students sent out of the classroom demanding my attention and taking me away from the others, fewer write ups, fewer detentions, fewer spaces for disciplinary equivocation on my part.

I’ve got the clean, well-lit, orderly room. I think this serves to maintain my own sanity more than anything. Rules, expectations, consequences, and rewards are on the wall. There are posters and such to keep visual capacities stimulated. I dance around the room like a wing-flapping chicken, spouting Spanish. Seems like a recipe for success. Unfortunately there is the whole bit about employing that series of consequences, which requires me to discipline actions I don’t really find deserving of discipline so that said actions don’t escalate into unacceptable behavior. When I fail to do so, even when I don’t, the misbehavers and their efforts become a distracting, threatening vacuum that sucks in my energy and attention, and pulls me away from instruction.

Perhaps the biggest contributor to my poor management abilities is instruction. It is so much easier to ignore smaller infractions, to cast a menacing glare at the guilty and move on with the lesson. I hate losing my place, backtracking, punishing those who are paying attention. Soon, before I can comprehend what’s taken place, I realize I don’t have enough glares, that I am incapable of glowering at seven individuals strategically distributed (gracias a la profesora, to minimize chatter) around the room. Slowly growing irate at my own stupidity, I search out a lamb to sacrifice before the mass. Of course, I am immediately morally conflicted: Should I discipline them for my own shortcomings? Should these students pay yet again at the hands of arbitrary power? It’s not their fault they have an inexperienced, untrained teacher with no pacing guide, text book, or required curriculum who is not trained in the art of military discipline tactics. (It’s not their fault their school is an oversized, under-funded federal daycare system. Yeah kids, let’s learn! Let’s have a meaningful experience! Let’s all play into a system run by leaders who would rather let a hurricane wash you into the gulf than figure out how to deal with generational poverty! With an education the sky’s the limit!)