As a second year teacher, but first year at my current school, there are still basic obstacles to overcome. Most experienced teachers will tell you that when you are at a new school to focus most of your energy towards your younger students, and less on the upperclassmen. Now, I am an extreme realist and understand this notion, but I also have a small bit of optimism in me at times. Taking this bit of optimism I worked with my varsity Parliamentary Procedure team, which consisted of four seniors, three sophomores, and one freshmen. Because of this mix in ages, I thought they would be a fairly easy group to coach and motivate, having various levels of experience that they could share with one another.
Outside of some limited class time work on Parli Pro, I had scheduled four other practices before school to get this varied group of students into a groove with one another. When the first practice rolled around only four out of eight students showed up. At the second practice six students showed up. And for the third only two showed up and the fourth got canceled due to their lack of motivation.
At this point, lets say I was a little bit more than upset with this team, because I also had to find a replacement for a student who quit the team the night before contest. That same day I had found out from members on my JV team that the upperclassmen on varsity had told the younger members to not show for practice because they didn't want to practice. In this particular week I had a lot of things going on outside of my FFA responsibilities, and only briefly addressed this situation to the team. When contest rolled around, needless to say, they didn't do the greatest. I wasn't upset in the least to, be honest. I figure, if they want to do well, they'll show, if not, they won't.
Reading this, I guess the question I am raising in telling this story is, where do you give up that tiny bit of optimism and put it to use somewhere else? And for that matter, once you begin the cycle of letting go of that optimism towards a certain group of students, are you ever going to stop? Isn't it my responsibility as an educator to help every student learn and have opportunities at experiences that will help them later in life and broaden their horizons? Or do I only focus my energy on those kids who already have the motivation to do this things on their own, because it's not as exhausting or poor use of my time?
After reviewing what I have already written, I know these are loaded questions, and that each situation is different and circumstantial for everyone. So how do you go about finding how you'll handle these situations without making crucial and/or repetitive mistakes?
Post by Katy McGovern