Thursday, December 24, 2009

Discussions About High School

Ahhhh vacation. Time of 9-10 hours of sleep a night, of eating too much, of drinking more than needed, of talking with various people about high school.

Today I had lunch with another math teacher that I used to work with. We were discussing kids who didn't persevere and didn't have a good work ethic .... you know, "kids these days". Then we started talking about when we were in high school, and she mentioned that she wasn't such a hot student back then. Then I mentioned that as a student I wasn't that "student-y". I did what I needed to do to get good grades, but I don't remember really being engaged about topics or thinking hard or being any of the things I want for my students these days. Then I look at how we turned out as adults. My friend is a conscientious teacher who really thinks about what and how she teaches, and I want to believe I'm the same way, and I didn't really learn how to be a good student until I was in grad school and saw how other students worked. So, really, in the end, even though our high school performance wouldn't have predicted it, we turned out okay.

Then that leads me to think that even though some of the kids we teach these days don't do what we want them to do, they still are absorbing the lessons we teach them either formally (math math math) or informally (be a good person, do the right thing, think about what you're learning). And that ultimately, in the end, most likely they'll turn out to be productive adults that end up having a good work ethic or end up having a strong moral compass. Just because they're one way now, when they're 14, that doesn't mean that's how they're destined to be forever. And even though they don't seem to be absorbing what we're telling them, maybe they are at some level, and if not now, then maybe later.

Then this evening we were at an open house for Christmas Eve at our neighbors' home. They have 3 children that have graduated from high school and are now out in the world. I talked with one of the girls (20's) about high school, and she mentioned how she HATED it. "The kids were so mean." We also talked about whether or not we remembered teachers' names. Now even though she's been out for only a few years, she doesn't remember many. I've been out for more than 20, and I don't either. But I do remember 2 teacher's names. What made them different? One was a "public speaking" teacher. That was the most useful class I took. I guess I remember his name because the class had such an impact on me. Another was my freshman English teacher's name. He was all "cool" and wore jeans (in the late 70's), and had a shag rug (ooh aah), and our desks were in a circle, and I still remember his lessons on: effect/affect ... it's/its ... their/they're and so on.

I guess all this is to give myself a little pep talk to remind myself that how my students are today may not be the perfect indication of how they'll ultimately turn out.


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  3. David K10:06 AM

    Ms Cookie,
    I teach 8th grade Algebra in Washington State, and I have the very same concerns about my middle school students that you express with your high school students.
    While education doesn't seem to have the same value today as when we were going through school (I graduated from HS back in 1975), I'd like to think that the majority of students and parents are on the right track and want the best for their sons and daughters. And even though they may not "get it" now, some day they'll look back on their experience and say, "I didn't like math until I got into Mr. K's class...I learned a lot from him."
    By the way Ms Cookie, I really enjoy your blog and your candor and transparency you bring to it. It's a must read for me.

    David K

  4. Thanks, David K. I'm choosing to believe (and hopefully remember frequently) these thoughts about our students.

    I hope you have a restful and joyful few weeks (days?) off from school before all the craziness starts up again.

    Ms. Cookie