I Can’t Teach Being Alive

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I’m reading a poetry test aloud to a group of 8th grade students.  The next question is a thinking question. 

Me:  “What season was this poem written about.  Okay, I’m not even going to make you look for the hint.  I’m going to tell you the hint.  ‘yellow wood’  The author is walking in a yellow wood.

Students:  blank looks.

Me:  “Yellow wood means the leaves have turned yellow.  In what season are our leaves yellow.  I’m going to narrow your choices to two..spring or fall.  Do our leaves turn yellow in the spring or the fall?’

I watch as one student chooses summer.

Me (voice rising):  “Summer!!!  I said, spring or fall!  Why would you choose summer?”

Student:  “Well it says something about grass in the poem.”

Me:  “I know.  That’s why I gave you the yellow wood hint, so you wouldn’t be confused.  Yellow.  The leaves have turned yellow.”

I watch the students choose spring.

Me (voice rising more):  “Spring!! The answer is fall!  Fall!  All the leaves are turning yellow!  You know, people go out to look at the fall colors!  The leaves turn yellow in the fall.”

Student (indignantly slapping his hand on the desk, and snarling):  “How are we supposed to know that?”

Me (staring at the student):  “Um.  By being ALIVE.”

Seriously.  That was my day.  I read the test 3 times to 3 different groups of students.  By the end of the day, I was sitting at my desk with my left eyelid twitching.  Yes, these are special education students, but about 90 percent of them are A.D.D.  They have completely average intellectual ability.  Most of them plan on going to college.  I hate to make general, global statements, but sometimes it’s hard not to.  It used to be that most of your students worked and cared about school and you had a handful that didn’t, now it seems like it’s reversed.  You have a handful that care and the majority don’t want to work, they don’t want to think, they become angry when you expect them to. 

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  1. says

    Sadly, that’s actually how I felt about medical student. Everyone cared…but they still didn’t want to have to think. They just wanted to be able to regurgitate information. It drove me crazy.

  2. says

    I think it might just be that kids never spend any time outside. My kids have a hard time finding friends to ride the bus home with them to play b/c their friends are all on their way to karate or Lego league or afterschool care and never play outside. Pretty sad. We have a few teachers at school who take their class outside for recess regardless of the weather. But so many say it is too cold or too hot or, my favorite, a dangerous ozone day!

  3. says

    I tip my hat to teachers who can go into the classroom day after day, and continue to care about students who don’t seem to care about anything. Even though it’s hard to imagine it, there will be one student (or more, maybe) who will walk outside in the fall, see the yellow leaves, remember the poem, and say “aha!”

  4. says

    Pam – I feel your pain. My daughter is 11 and sometimes my husband and I just hang our heads at some of the things she says. Let’s hope this week is better for you.

  5. says

    Yup…I teach in alternative Ed (up here in Canada) and yes…some days are like that.
    Common sense just isn’t that common, you know?

    Hang in – take a breath, a walk, a glass (no, not the bottle!) of wine and “gird your loins” for the next day. I had a terrible day last week, lots of what you had and then some plain stupid thrown in for good measure. It was a full moon (I realized at the end). Sometimes it’s just that. Could also be (as another commenter said) that kids don’t get outside much anymore.

    Best wishes,

  6. says

    My Mom is a special ed teacher, also Pam. For about 20 years. I couldn’t even teach kids without issues. Bravo to you, her, and everyone else who subject yourself to this every day. I’d be fetal.

  7. says

    Yeah… it’s like that isn’t it? I kind of have the opposite issue with kids who notice the tiniest thing… then insist on blurting it out and nearly any time… I gave birth to vulcans… My oldest is Sheldon. At least he has a sense of humor. And he has Sheldon’s mom. I told Friday on his way out the door to school; (remember he’s 15) – “Sam, don’t be a jackass today at school, no detention please!-Sam: I won’t be if the teacher won’t be idiots” My response as he walks out the door “They are not idiots- you are just pompous!” My teacher friend, who was on the phone with me, and has her own 15 year old laughed – hard, and I could hear her shaking her head at us. It’s a struggle, and I think, truly you are my HERO for doing this every day… take yarn to school. You need your knitting close at hand.

  8. says

    I can sympathize! I am a substitute teacher and live in only a small city but I can see the difference between the kids’ awareness here and those in villages and small towns.

  9. says

    Scary what is happening to the attitude of so many of our kids these days… It’s just not the A.D.D. kids—it seems to be an entire generation… Scary!!!! Guess there’s not enough ‘living’ and being outside –and too much video, computer, TV, cellphones, etc… Interesting post, Pam.

    We are home from our 2nd trip is a month–and both of us have colds.. Yuk! Guess it will be REST for this upcoming week for both of us.


  10. says

    I think it’s because of things like ADD diagnoses that kids don’t think they have to work. My second son had a friend who had an ADD diagnosis. The kid told me he liked being at my house because he didn’t have to take his medication, which made him feel like crap. He was a smart kid when here with us, but had a teaching aide to help him with his school work. That’s just messed up.

    Another problem is helicopter parents, who take care of every little thing for their kids.

    And lastly, the current attitude of everyone is the same, no one is special because everyone is special? I think it makes kids more self centered and less observant of the world around them (and less willing to improve themselves). Couple that with increased “entitlements” from the government, and kids think they don’t have to try.

    You can see that this bothers me greatly, and I think a lot about it. And I’m not even a teacher. I fear for the future of our society.

  11. says

    My husband teaches college and it’s the same there. I’ll have to pass along your response “Um. By being ALIVE” LOVE it. Hope that eyelid is better 😉

  12. Allison says

    Feb and March are the hardest months to teach! I am a high school biology teacher and some days I just have to take a breath and remember my best students, the ones that remind me of why I (usually) love my job! Hang in there! Teachers are immortal because you never know when your influence will change the life of a kid!!! Thanks for your excellent blog! You are my vacation from my teaching life!

  13. says

    I love your response to the kids! Too funny! But sadly so true. There seems to be a disconnect with ‘common sense” with so many young people. Perhaps parents are trying so hard to start teaching their kids the academics when they are small they forget to teach them the little things ~ like that yellow leaves are for fall!!

    Well good luck ~ I am thinking you must have a big heart and a lot of patience to be a teacher! 😉

    xo Catherine

  14. says

    My sister teaches 8th grade… and I love hearing her stories. It is sad, though, that the concept of THINKING is beyond so many students these days. One day, I’d love for ya’ll to sit down and talk. I know you’d both have a field day! :)

    Fast Forward to the Weekend Wine Review.. heck, try a couple of wines before finding the one to review. (hee hee)

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