12 December 2010

Benefits of Failure (Or, the post in which I vent.)

Ahh. . . the last week of school. The week in which students who never cared an ounce for my classes up until now will suddenly care very much, and I will have the pleasure of telling them, and their parents, 'tough luck, Tiger, you're too late.'

I hate this week.

For personal and slightly selfish reasons, I hate this week because it is the week in which parents will very apologetically recognize that I have better things to do with my time, but could I please just this once make an exception for their student? It's the time where I will feel pressured guilt trips about students who failed to get work in all term and now that they're going to fail it will suddenly be my fault. It's the time where I will receive emails begging me to attempt to remember daily writing prompts from over two months ago. It's the week where I will already be swamped enough with final projects and places to be and things to prepare for that involve my OWN life (because I will actually have one in the next week.)

For other reasons, I hate this week because sometimes, (in my non-parental naivety), I wish that parents would allow their student to fail. Because what does the child really learn from death bed repentance? Well - for some, it will be that if you do the work the first time then you don't have to do it all at once. And that's not a bad lesson. But I also suspect that for many others, the lesson is, "Hey - I can slack off all term, do crappy work in the last week, and still somehow manage to scrape by." The lesson is short lived.

This isn't to say that I don't support or encourage make-up work. But I do think there are definite benefits to parents allowing their kids to face up to the consequences of their actions, even if it is embarrassing or frustrating or causes set backs. Because that's how life sometimes is. School is, and should be, a safe place to fail because your life/livelihood doesn't depend on it like it would in a job, for instance - but I do think there is a balance between teaching your kid responsibility and letting your kid face the music. I think the culture in this valley leads to too many kids who are coddled and used to making excuses - "I couldn't do my homework. I had other homework." or "I couldn't do my assignment. I had young women." To which I want to reply, "I couldn't grade your assignment, I had other assignments to grade." Or "I couldn't plan a lesson for you today, I had to take my car in for an oil change and then I had to do laundry and then I had to make myself dinner."

. . . Ok. So this isn't the most eloquent writing I've ever done. Mostly I'm just venting because this week has been one thing after another piling down on me and making me feel as though I am getting absolutely nowhere as a teacher.

So for now, I'm going to allow J.K. Rowling to say eloquently what I can only vent about. It is an article that I think I've referenced before, but I'm doing it again because it is just that good. (Though, in a sudden burst of irony, this article did make one student think that I am nigh unto Satanic because apparently Ms. Rowling is a devil - but you can be the judge on that one.)

In other news: sometimes being a teacher is annoying. Also - grades are a farce. These parents (and students) can whine and complain their way into whatever letter they want, but it won't change anything about what they've really learned or the kind of student they are, and it's about time they learned to face up to that music.


A. Bailey said...

All I have to say is DON'T FEEL GUILTY and DON'T GIVE IN. It is not your fault they chose to not do their work. It does NOT make you a bad teacher in any way. In fact, I think you are a great teacher and I wish I was a student in your class from some of the things you have been saying. So don't worry about it. It is NOT your fault and you are an AWESOME teacher. Don't take on their problems.

Brad and Kimberly said...

It is so funny Joni because I would pay money for parents to care about their students' grades. I never hear from parents unless their kid isn't getting enough playing time in basketball! An "F" is no problem. Don't you just love teaching?

Me said...

Kim -

Oh, I've got some of those too. Parents that don't care an ounce. But since I'm at a charter school in the middle of no where, most of my parents care a little TOO much sometimes and their student doesn't care at all. I love it when parents care, but a parent can care all they want and it won't change the student. The more time I spend in public education, the more I realize what a farce grades are. Wouldn't it be nice if people just cared about learning just because it's good to do?