“The kids don’t want to do anything.”
“They are SO unmotivated.”
“They don’t care.”
“I put in all this effort and they do nothing.”
When I hear things like that from other teachers, I recoil, sometimes too visibly to be diplomatic, bite my tongue, and count to 5. To me, these are the unfounded complaints of a teacher who has lost his/her way and has given up on his/her students. And quite frankly, I don’t want to hear it!
To varying degrees, we all go through frustration and aggravation in our jobs. There are all the things we can’t control, like district mandates, administrative policies, apathetic parents, lack of funding/supplies, and burdensome paperwork. These are facts of the profession that, to a very tiny degree, can be helped by our own efforts to change them creatively or through our own efficiency.
The thing that we do control that can be helped by our efforts more than anything is our approach to teaching.
I had a talk today with a teacher from another school who lamented all of the above complaints about her fifth graders. I listened politely, externally projecting empathy while simultaneously turning questions over in my head ranging from, “Is this really their fault?” to “What do you plan to do about it?”
When she finished, I shared with her one of my growing credos about the field: You can’t blame the kids.
She said she’s tried to match her teaching to each child’s preferred learning style and doesn’t know what to do anymore. She said, “They’re only 10, and they’ve already given up.”
I said, “They’re only 10, and you’ve already given up.”
My advice was this: you can do more. Figure it out. Also, remember, so much of what the kids need to do nowadays is boring. I asked her to put herself in the students’ shoes and continue from there. And I challenged her to remember why she got into the profession in the first place.
Let’s face it. Once you lose sight of that, you might as well close your plan book for the last time and walk out the door.
Kids are, by nature, inquisitive sponges who want to learn about anything they can. We can’t control what we teach them, but we can surely control how we do it. Even within the mandates of a school, you have to be creative enough to come up with ways to reach kids in your own style and their’s.
Don’t sit there and blame the kids. If they see you don’t want to be there in front of them, there’s no way they’re going to want to be there in front of you.
So what are you going to do about it? Sit there and complain about how miserable your class is this year?
Or reevaluate yourself as a teacher and figure out the best ways to help the students thrive?
If you don’t do the latter, there’s only one person to blame.
And it’s not the 10 year old.