Support: Update

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Feb
  • 10
  • 2009

I’m running out of tricks.

We’ve tried making videos. We’ve tried speeches. We’ve tried reading as a class. We’ve tried reading in groups. We’ve tried reading independently. We’ve tried whole-class, small-group, and individual projects. We’ve tried posters. We’ve tried worksheets. We’ve tried class games.

I’m also running out of time.

I told my students today that triage time is coming. I picked up two wads of fresh gum off the floor today. I stopped a spitwad war yesterday. I pulled a pencil down from the ceiling tile last week. I picked up countless pieces of garbage the week before even though a no eating edict went out in November. From about six weeks ago, four books went missing. Despite my honest best efforts to cheer these students on and to push them to do better, giving them chances to work on their school skills, there’s not enough return on investment. The time is coming when I can no longer sink my energy into black holes. This is the class that exhausts me mentally such that, when I get home, I do not do any work. I can’t because I would be wound too tight come tomorrow if I just pushed all the way to a sixty-hour work week like I usually do. This takes a toll on my other classes and I don’t like how unprepared I am. Don’t get me wrong: I work like a dog for my other classes, too. I’m just so used to a twelve-hour day that an eight-hour day feels like cheating. And it feeling that way is as good as it actually being that way. I haven’t written much here because of that exact phenomenon.

I’ve had successes.

My number one trouble student from August told me of the possibility of her moving (mortgage trouble). I was honestly saddened by it and when I told her that she piped up with an enthusiastic, “Yeah, me too!” My number two trouble student from August is no longer talking incessantly to number one and number two even cracks jokes with me (though she still doesn’t do any actual work). My number three trouble from December smiles and behaves on a regular basis. Another trouble student just today said, “I’ve got teachers who don’t like me. –pause– And I’m lazy.” This is progress from the shrugged “Idunno” he gave the previous four weeks. A fifth student who wouldn’t even make an attempt at assignments a few months ago can be cajoled into doing the work after I deflate his exhaustive list of excuses for not doing it. And he’ll also do so with a smile. And he’ll even speak in class when called on. I’ll take participation in class almost any day for the win.

I’m dealing with issues.

Liars who look me straight in the eye and lie. Jokers who destroy or foul (don’t ask) property then claim innocence a split second after I saw it. Instigators who profess they are the downtrodden. Disengaged behavior no matter the work requested. A shortage of ideas that are different from what has already been done. Fear that I simply cannot be who they need me to be, that it’s just not within my power. Awareness that this class is killing these students’ ability to enjoy learning. Knowledge that nothing is going to change and that my district doesn’t see the problem for what it is. My sincere insecurity. No support with planning or materials. Students who know this is elective credit and they can just pick up these missed units elsewhere at a much easier asking price. Others who want to do cool things but are bogged down by sour attitudes.

But I’m changing things, too. More on that tomorrow.


1. Dan Callahan says:

[2/10/2009 - 7:57 pm]

I am not alone.

I need to know that sometimes. Thanks.

2. Seal & Me | Inner Education for Inward Educators says:

[2/11/2009 - 8:40 pm]

[…] wanting to know why education often suffers in this country should read the latest post by Todd Seal.  I am in Tennessee; he is in California, but what he describes matches a lot of what I see […]

3. Andy says:

[2/12/2009 - 2:48 am]

Honest and true.