I saw the above picture yesterday and immediately recognized what it refered to. The quote comes from Angela Lee Duckwall’s TED talk, “The Key to Success? Grit.” I showed it to my students this past spring, hoping it would be encouraging to them. If you’ve never see it, check it out HERE.
My students were starting to slack off and disengage from the work. They were complaining about the workload, how it didn’t matter, and were generally unruly. I’ll be honest: part of the problem was me, and I know it. We were going through “Hamlet” and they were struggling to understand the langauge (which I knew would probably happen, but didn’t really prepare for). Facebook suggested this particular TED Talk to me and I couldn’t pass it up. The day after I watched it, I showed to them. They had a hard time understanding the word “grit”. It was new to them and they’d never heard it before. I explained it was the quality of persisting through hard situations, “stick-to-itness”, if you will. O ok. They understood that. We talked about pushing through things, doing things even when we didn’t want to do them. We talked about getting through the material we were reading, how bettering their English would create more opportunities for them, and that being persistant would better prepare them for college. Afterwards, things got a little better. It helped that I found an easy-read version of “Hamlet” and they suddenly better understood the material. When we finished “Hamlet,” they better understood the story and completed projects to reflect that they had understood the material. They had shown understanding, but they had also shown grit.
I’ve been in my new teaching position for a month, and I am wondering if I need to show this video again. Most of my students are not trying. They don’t like English, mostly because they struggle with it. It’s hard. English isn’t just reading stories and talking about the stories. I’m not just reading with them on a carpet here (although the media would like people to believe that’s all English teachers do). I’m trying to teach them to find elements of literature in the stories. I’m trying teach them to understand what they read, which they usually don’t. I’m trying to teach them to think about what they’re reading, which they don’t want to do at all. Shoot, most of the time, they don’t even understand the storyline at all. And the worst part is that they don’t ask for help. Right before my first test on Friday, a bunch of students said they didn’t understand the stories at all. I asked them why they hadn’t even asked me for help or to explain it. They didn’t respond. Some students had missed class on Wednesday or Thursday, then they said they hadn’t made up the work they had missed because they didn’t know what to do. I asked them if they’d looked at their weekly calenders that told them what we were going to read that week, or if they had asked their parents to call the office and get the make up work, or if they had emailed me, or if they had a parent call me. No, no, no. They had not even thought about it. I told them they should have taken some responsibilty for their learning and done something about it. None of them responded.
I’m not trying to rip on my students. I’m trying to point out something that is lacking in our modern culture: grit. People are lacking grit in all kinds of ways. You can see it in every age group, too. Baby boomers are giving up on trying to show other generations how to live well and are retiring in mass droves. Those who are unemployed or underemployed are giving up on finding good jobs in their fields. Millenials are giving up on finding jobs and accomplishing their goals under crushing student debt and societal/parental pressure to be “grown ups” living on their own and finding jobs that pay off their debt. People aren’t taking relationships seriously and giving up on them before really investing in them. Women are giving up on finding men who don’t act like teenagers. Men are giving up on finding women who aren’t jerks. Parents are giving up on raising children well. Children are giving up on behaving well and making good choices. And teenagers are giving up on their futures and themselves before they even start trying. Several of my students think that they are stupid and that their grades are proof of it. My response to those comments has been that their grades reflect that they aren’t even trying, not a lack of intelligence.
This is really disheartening, both as a teacher and as a citizen in this society. I think that our society is giving up on trying to improve themselves and be better. I think that the older generations are giving up and their attitudes are affecting younger generations. As a result, people aren’t trying to improve, learn, or take responsibility for themselves. Everything is becoming someone else’s fault. In Duckwall’s talk on grit, she explains that gritiness is a better determiner for longterm success than anything else, but she also states that experts don’t know how to increase grit in others or improve grit. I think I might have her answer: a person needs to believe in his/her goals and that they can accomplish those goals, regardless of setbacks, and a person needs to understand that mistakes and setbacks don’t mean that the person can’t do something; it only means the person needs to keep trying. Our culture is losing this. Instead of seeing setbacks and long roads as challenges to overcome, people see them as signs that they can’t, so they don’t do anything for themselves. The situation isn’t going to get better until people change their minds and their attitudes.
I’m not sure if I’m going to show them this talk on Monday or not. I do know that I’m going to discuss our test and the areas in which people need to improve, then I’m going to drill them on the literary elements and reading comprehension until I’m satisfied that I don’t need to anymore. All I can do is teach the material and give them chances. I can’t learn it for them. But I’m going to do what I can do until the end of the semester.
Hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend!
As the weekend is winding down here in Indiana, so is the summer. It’s the last day before the school year starts in most of the state. Tomorrow, kids of all ages will walk into schools, find their new classrooms, and meet their new teachers. They will start off a new year of learning, discovery, test-taking, skill acquiring, and growing. Many parents are looking forward to getting the kids of their house and back into school. Others are sad to see them leave, wishing the summer would never end. But most are probably ready. As their teacher, I’m ready, but still nervous. This is my first year teaching in the US. I was prepared this last year but still nervous. I find the start of every new school year nervewracking for a variety of reasons. Many of the reasons have to do with the students and the parents of the students. As a teacher, I want to connect with my students during the first weeks of school in order to set a good tone for the school year. I also want to focus on set high expectations in the classroom and on setting routines for the classroom right away to ensure that the class runs smoothly throughout the year. Now, I understand they have a lot going on as they prepare for their children to return to school, but I’ve observed some things that make the job of getting their kids back to school and setting up a good school year more difficult for everyone, including the teachers. So I thought I’d offer some tips on getting your kids back to school and starting the year off well with them and with their teachers.
1. Meet the teacher and ask what he/she expects of students.
This is really important. Find out directly from the teacher what he/she expects in the classroom. Chances are that you will be on the same page with the teacher. Most teachers don’t expect the sun, moon, and stars from their students or their parents; they do expect some basic rules to be followed (put things where they should be, put the name on the paper, no food or drink in class, etc.) mutual respect (even you, dear parent, expect this from your child), to participate in class (which usually involves listening, responding appropriately) and to be responsible (following directions and turning in work on time).
2. If there is something the teacher needs to know about your child, get it in writing and to the teacher and office before the school year even starts.
There are kids who need extra accomadations. That’s part of life. Some kids need to use the bathroom all the time because they have a bladder problem or diabetes. Some need to be placed at the front of the class because they are easily distracted by others. Some just need some extra understanding. You, dear parent, have the right to bring it to the teacher and ask for it. If you bring it to the office, in writing from a doctor or authority that can help back up these claims, accomadations will be provided.
Don’t take advantage of it, though. I’ve seen individualized education plans for students with disabilities that require the teacher to allow a student to walk around as much as he/she wants, let the student eat whenever he/she wants (not because of diabetes or other medical reason, but just because), and to get the child McDonald’s as a reward for turning in homework. I’m not kidding with that last one; the plan actually said: “If this child turns in all his homework daily, the teacher should give the child McDonald’s.”
Let’s be reasonable here, parents. You and teachers need to prepare your child for the world. Yes, there are sometimes accomadations that need to be made, but they can’t be made if you don’t communicate them, and they should be reasonable and not taking advantage of the school.
I would also like to add this (because it has happened to me a few times): if a crime was committed against your family or there was a death in your familly, communicate this with the office and teachers immediately. They aren’t going to ask for death certificates or police records, but please communicate it with them. Unfortunate things happen in life. Teachers are human beings and understand this. They will provide extra time, accommadations, and understanding to your child. They may even pray for you, your family, and your child during those times. Please communicate with them.
3. If a teacher calls about something, please listen.
Teachers are busy people. Their daily schedule includes writing lesson plans that follow state standards, collaborating with other teachers, grading work and modifying lessons in response to the work, helping individual students who are struggling, documenting everything they do, answering emails from the office and parents, preparing for state tests, talking with students, disciplining students, responding to students’ emotional moments, having to fill out reports about students, and then, sometime in the midst of all of these actions, actually teaching lessons while trying to keep students’ attention, ensuring they don’t distract others and prevent the learning of others. Sometimes, during the day, there is a problem that teachers want to talk to parents about.
Teachers don’t call to tell you that you’re bad parents. They aren’t picking on your child. They were terrified to make that phone call. Even if the teacher doesn’t have children of their own (like me), they understand that no parent likes to hear something negative about their child or their child’s actions. But something happened and something had to be done. It’s not personal to the child. It’s what needs to be done. Teachers call parents to tell them when something needing a consequence happened so that they know right away what happened, what the consequence will be, and in the hope that you, dear parent, will help them in guiding the child to make better choices.
On more than one occasion, I or a colleague have contacted a parent about a behavior that needed a consequence and have been met not only with an outright denial of the child’s actions, but hostility, anger, and accusations of making up consequences to pick on a child. I assure you, parent, that is not the case. Teachers are busy people. They don’t want to make things up only to give consequences. The don’t have time. They don’t like doing it. It’s not fun. It stinks.
Please don’t attack teachers when they call. They might even have something good to say about your child. But if they need to talk about something more serious, please listen. They are trying to work with you, not against you.
4. Give teachers some credit
To become a teacher in the state of Indiana is not easy. On top of having to go to college, they have to compete for student teaching positions. They have to pass licensing exams, which they have to pay for (and cost hundreds of dollars). They have to be CPR certified (at their expense). They have to pass classes about educational psychology, educational theory, methods of eduation, child and adolescent psychology, and all the classes for their content area. They have to prove that they are capable. They have to prove that they are smart enough, responsible enough, and capable of doing their profession. That’s what this is: a profession. It’s like any other.
They know what they’re doing. Give them some credit.
Teachers hear all too often how anyone could do their job. That is not true. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Just as I can’t be a stockbroker because I don’t have the education, abilities, or desire, not anyone can be a teacher. Comments about how anyone could do their job, how people pay their salaries with taxes, and how they are just babysitters is demeaning. They give children a bad impression of the teacher and then don’t treat them as an adult. They treat them the way people talk about them.
Parent, if you have a concern or question, please ask the teacher. They love when parents are interested and willing to understand why something is being done, or what standard the activity meets, or what really happened during the day. Just ask. They’ll answer.
Teachers are not against parents or their children. They want to encourage children’s learning. They want to see them suceed and grow. They want them to do well. They want them to learn the material and skills that will help them in college or in the workforce.
Parents want the same things for their children. Teacher understand that and want to be a part of that process. Children will grow and be the best they can be if parents and teachers work together.