Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Five Types of Unlovable Students (and How to Love Them Anyway)

It's no secret: I adore my kids.  I'm a teacher, in large part,  because I just like kids and want them to succeed.  But let's just be real for a minute-- sometimes, there's that kid. No matter how hard you try, you just don't like that kid.  For whatever reason, that kid just drives you up the wall.  Because you're a rational person, you decide that you're going to deal and get past whatever personal issue you have.  But it's hard.  While it's not necessary for us to love our kids in order to teach them, I think it certainly helps.  I have worked with a number of those kids over the years, and I'm proud to say that I think most (if not all) of them have no idea that I ever disliked them.  I like to think that I have a special skill for hiding my distaste, and even turning it into a real appreciation for my kids.  Here are five kinds of kids I sometimes find "unlovable," and how I manage to get around it and love them anyway.

1. The Slug

The Slug is characterized by a lack of traits rather than a list of them.  S/he never has homework, textbooks, pencils, paper, drive, work ethic, thoughts, ideas, eye contact, responsibility, or a clue.  Slugs don't even bother to make up excuses; they just shrug or look away when asked about their work.  

How to Love Them:
Slugs usually lack effort because, quite frankly, they lack self-worth.  Many of them have been told countless times (either verbally or indirectly) that they are stupid, lazy, or otherwise unimportant.  Many of them lack parents who care, teachers who care, or even friends.  And we expect them to care about themselves even when no one else does?  To fix a Slug, pay attention to her.  Get on her case.  Nag her about her homework; sit with her while she writes; do whatever it takes.  If a Slug thinks you don't care, he'll never change.  Show him you care about him, about his life, and I promise you, he'll come around.  Most likely, you'll find yourself loving that reformed Slug before it's over with.

2. The Desk-Stander
Desk-Standers are, in many ways, the total opposite of Slugs.  Rather than avoiding your eyes, Desk-Standers seek them out.  In fact, you'll probably find yourself dodging eye contact.  Desk-Standers are often good students, but they won't seem to stop standing at your desk.  A Desk-Stander wants to tell you about his entire day, even down to the breakfast foods he ate.  A Desk-Stander will read twelve chapters ahead in the class novel, just so that she can chat with you about it before class.  She also wants to know all about your day.  Every day.  If you need to quickly catch up on grading or email between classes, you're out of luck with a Desk-Stander around.

How to Love Them:
Despite their behavioral differences, Desk-Standers actually have a lot in common with Slugs.  Desk-Standers are starved for attention; I find that they usually are a bit neglected at home.  They may also lack friends, so they feel a need to connect with someone, and that someone happens to be you-- the nearest adult who has to be kind to them.  Desk-Standers also lack self-worth, but unlike Slugs, they need you to reaffirm it for them.  To love a Desk-Stander, make eye contact, even if it's the last thing you want to do.  Listen.  Share something yourself.  Eventually, your patience will pay off, and the Desk-Stander will feel validated and will (hopefully) look to peers for conversation, rather than to you.

3. The Eye-Roller

The Eye-Roller is tricky.  Like Love, Teach's Smirker, the Eye-Roller is difficult to discipline, because there isn't really a crime committed.  He glares openly at you, even when all your other kids are rapt with attention at the fabulous lesson you've planned.  An Eye-Roller (shocker!!) rolls her eyes at everything you say and do.  Honestly, it'll probably hurt your feelings more than you'd care to admit.  Every student in the classroom can be beaming at you, but one sullen stink-eyed Eye-Roller can ruin your entire mood.

How to Love Them:
Here's the thing; it's not about you.  As difficult as it is to deal with, every teacher must learn to stop taking things so personally.  Really, teenagers are sullen sometimes.  It's hormones, boys/girls, friend drama, etc. Not you.  As my second-grade teacher said, "Kill them with kindness."  For every roll of the eyes, give the Eye-Roller your best smile.  Eventually, you might get one back.

4. The Blurter

Somewhat similar to the Desk-Stander, the Blurter desperately needs attention.  The difference?  While the Desk-Stander seeks positive attention from you, the Blurter seeks any kind of attention from anyone who will give it.  The Blurter loves being late, because that means she can burst loudly into class, screaming a ridiculous excuse for her tardy.  If you ever ask, "Are there any questions?" . . . you'd better be prepared if you have a Blurter. He will have questions; that's for sure. A Blurter also loves to interrupt class with random off-topic musings, like, "Hey, Teacher, I like your shirt today." 

How to Love Them:
Blurters need your attention-- to a point.  I like to give them a few minutes (at the beginning or end of class) to get my full attention.  I listen to their stories, answer their questions, and then?  They have to be still and cooperative in class.  Honestly, once Blurters get a little undivided attention, they're usually satisfied.  It's also a good idea to seat Blurters with others who are not amused by their blurts.  The other kids can help keep them in line. 

5. The Spoon
Spoons are probably the "unlovable students" I struggle with the most, because they fly completely in the face of my classroom motto of "Be nice or leave."  Spoons, as you might suspect, stir the pot.  You may also hear them referred to as Drama Queens or Kings.  Spoons know (or think they know) something about everyone, and they love to share.  I have a pretty strict anti-gossip and drama policy in class, but Spoons just ignore it.  A typical interaction with a Spoon, for me, usually involves me gently reminding him of the rules.  Thirty seconds later, I realize that he's back at it.  Spoons often fail to realize that they are, in fact, Spoons.  They somehow see themselves as public informants or detectives. This makes it really difficult to convince them to stop their behavior.  

How to Love Them:
Spoons, like anyone else, need attention.  Their own lives haven't provided enough material (in their opinion) for conversation, so they must discuss the lives of others.  Once I recognize a Spoon in my room, I listen carefully to her conversations and make sure I constantly nip it in the bud.  The Spoon sees me as the devil incarnate, constantly on her back.  Then, I start taking an obvious interest in the Spoon.  I ask about her weekend, but end the conversation immediately if she tries to discuss anything other than her own life.  After enough conversations like this, the Spoon usually gets it.  Eventually, at least in my room, the Spoon is reformed and I can love him/her like all the others.  

What is your most unlovable type of student?

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Better Together: Fun in the Classroom

Good Monday morning!  It's time for my second-ever Better Together link-up.  I think October is a tough time for lots of teachers-- the honeymoon period is over, and it's a long month with really no breaks.  To get us through it, this month's focus is on fun in the classroom.  Please link up with me to share ideas for making the classroom more fun (for the students and for us)!

One of my favorite fun lesson plans is something I do every year: I have my students re-write the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet with a twist . . . and then perform them!  My students never fail to put together fantastic skits with lots of humor and cheek.  I've had so many fun versions:

  • Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne
  • a kitten and a puppy (Wherefore art meow?)
  • Jersey Shore
  • Duck Dynasty
  • Honey Boo-Boo
  • "band geeks" from opposing bands (My heart beats faster than a metronome for you!)
  • two teachers from our county (who really are married, and the parents of one of my students)
I love this lesson plan, not only because it guarantees lots of laughs and an entertaining class period or two, but also because it forces the kids to look more closely at that scene than they otherwise ever would.

Please share!  Link up below through next Monday and share your favorite fun lesson plan.  I look forward to seeing them all!  Remember- we are better together.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday Mash-Up: Of Smirkers and Sportsmanship

It's been a while since I put together a Monday Mash-Up, but I've been saving posts as they come along, so this one has some real gems for you!

They really have no common theme, but they're all pieces I thoroughly enjoyed for one reason or another- and hope you will, too.

  • "Winning, Losing, and Loving It: Have We Taught Sportsmanship?"  from Daydreaming in Maths, deals with something I preach to my students constantly.  Joanna coaches the chess team for her school, and I coach an academic competition team.  I've always thought I wasn't a "good coach" or "coach material" because I'm not angry when they lose.  In fact, I really could not care less.  What I do care about is that my team conducts themselves like ladies and gentlemen.  I loved reading that someone else feels the same.

  • Love, Teach, as always, is a favorite blog of mine.  "Smirker, Round Two" is a hilarious piece about the frustration of dealing with those general bad-attitude kids.  We've all had 'em.

  • Elizabeth of E, Myself, and I wrote beautifully about "What I Want My Own Little Monster to Know About Dreams, College, and the Future,"  and though it's written for parents, it's another great teacher-read.  Elizabeth's goals for her adorable little boy Sam are some of the same goals I have for my students: that they have someone who loves and cheers for them, that they don't stress out about the little things, and that they are able to pick themselves up after making mistakes or failing.  If only all our students had parents who loved and supported them like this.

  • Finally, who doesn't love a good lesson plan that's already done?!  I'm teaching both Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar right now, in two different English classes, and this one, "Serving Up Tragedy" from The Curly Classroom, is pretty awesome.  It uses paper plates to help students study and compare the elements of tragedy and comedy-- cheap hands-on learning always rocks my socks!

My next Better Together linky party will be up in one week-- get your posts ready!  The focus this month is on "Fun in the Classroom." 

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Allowing Students to "Run Wild"

Here in the south, allowing kids to "run wild" is a topic one overhears whispered amongst judgmental parents.  As in, "She just lets her kids run wild; what is wrong with her?"  I'm here to put a different spin on those two little words-- and to suggest that sometimes, as teachers, we give our kids the freedom to run wild.  

Let me start at the beginning.  I have a brand-new newspaper class this year that is so much fun.  It's made up of 10 brilliant young people and myself.  Several of them actually want to pursue writing as a career, so while I feel some pressure to really rock it this year, I also love teaching them.  They're interested and dedicated; I never hear, "Do we have to?"  Frankly, they're one of the great joys of my school year.  

But when three boys, who all aspire to become sportswriters or sportscasters, approached me about doing something new and different, I hesitated for a moment.  They wanted to broadcast the Homecoming football game.  On film.  My first thoughts?  I don't know.  That sounds difficult.  Where could we do it?  I don't have any equipment.

A tiny voice inside my head said, "Let them figure it out."  So I did.  I told them they'd have to figure out the logistics.  In a few minutes, they were back.  They had booked a room in the press box for the night of the game, and secured a video camera and tripod.  While we wouldn't be able to actually "broadcast" or stream the video feed, we could definitely film it, edit it, and post it on our newspaper blog.  

I told the boys they'd have to dress professionally (If you want to be a sportscaster, you're going to look like a sportscaster.) and that, since I was signed up to sell tickets at the game, they'd have to go it alone until I could join them at halftime.  I must admit, I was a tad bit nervous for them.  I saw one of them briefly before the game; he'd been unable to find the others and was stressing.  But when halftime rolled around, I made my way up there with snacks and drinks for them, and my mind was blown.  

guest commentator + two of my three students

Not only were they all in shirts and ties, but they had brought in a guest commentator, a former player from our football team.  Their knowledge of football amazes me, (partly because I know precious little), and their commentary was incredible.  They even referenced former players, other teams in our district, and made comparisons to college and NFL teams.  I am so stinkin' proud of them! 

We are still in the editing phase (and they're doing it all), but I think the lesson I learned is this: sometimes, kids get excited about learning.  About spreading their wings, trying new skills, and running wild.  And it's our job to just let them.  That project took almost no effort on my part; all I had to do was say yes.  In the process, I showed my students that I believe in them and that they can.  If you haven't yet, give your students a chance to run wild. Soon.
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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Homecoming Week: Teacher/Student Bonding

This two-week blogging hiatus is brought to you by what Love, Teach affectionately calls DEVOLSON-- the Dark, Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November.  Man, am I tired.  But aren't we all?  The good news is I'm back, and although it's a bit belated, I've got some fun pictures!

If you're a high school teacher, you get to experience Homecoming Week.  You can look at it one of two ways: 

1. It'stheworstweekevermykidsarecrazy ohmyGodhowwillIgetthroughthis?!

2.  What fun!  This is the perfect chance to get to know, and bond with, my students.

I choose Option 2.  Because really, who wants to just be frazzled for a week?  And secondly, who doesn't want to wear fun costumes to work?

I have to say, I didn't come to this realization on my own.  I work with a highly involved, incredibly fun faculty who participate with gusto every year.  A large group of my teacher-friends and I coordinate fun costumes according to the week's scheduled dress-up days, and our pictures are simply fabulous.  Check out this year's pics:

Monday: Camo Day

Clearly, we are Duck Dynasty.

Tuesday: Twin Day

Can you tell whose mustache is fo' real?  We all "honored" our principal, who is retiring after this year.

Wednesday: Retro Day

How much do you love our decade-based digs?  My flapper had to wear a sweater to be school appropriate, but I still think we're darned cute.

Thursday: Favorite Sports Team Day

The perfect excuse to wear jeans to school!

Friday: Big Orange/Black Day

This has become an annual tradition: we wear the uniforms of our senior football captains.

In past years, we've also been Ms. Pac Man and her ghosts (Video Game Day), the Ninja Turtles (Superhero Day), and lots of other fun things.  Not only do the kids love seeing what crazy thing we'll be doing each day, but we love doing it.  If we can't occasionally be kids, how are we supposed to teach them?  

My school also holds a carnival each Homecoming Week, where we get to talk, play games, eat pizza, and dance with our kids.  I have learned many new line dances over the years, and most importantly, I've formed lasting relationships with my young'uns.  If you have a Homecoming Week, by all means, please jump in headfirst!

I'm hosting another Better Together linky in a few weeks, so start planning your post to link up-- our theme will fit this blog: Fun in the Classroom.  What do you do to engage with your students in fun?

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