First day of Graduate School

Today I began my first day of class as a graduate student. I am currently enrolled in a “Master of Arts in Teaching” degree. Don’t ask.

As typical for the first day of any course the instructor started with an icebreaker activity. It went like this, each student was supposed to share two things. First, his teaching emphasis (English, Art, Science, etc) and second, something unique about himself.

Since I arrived to class ten minutes late I missed the responses of students with last names between A through L.

Yeah, I arrived late. Granted, it’s bad manners to arrive late, especially on the very first day. But what can I say? How am I supposed to have my alarm clock calibrated the first day? Besides, it was as I suspected, I didn’t miss anything important.

I digress, back to the icebreaker. When people are put on the spot one never knows what they will say. For her unique attribute, one girl suggested she was most likely the only person in the class who had double vision in both eyes. I figured she was probably right.

I sympathized with her as I too have double vision, just not in both eyes. In my case each eye registers one image but because my brain doesn’t overlap them correctly I end up seeing two images. Luckily for me I’m able to mentally push the “cut line” over toward my peripheral and thus just use one eye (single vision) on whatever I want to focus on. Wierd, huh?

But our instructor, an elderly woman named Judy, gushed in a shocked voice, “So you see two of me?”

Now, admittedly, I’m not the brightest bulb going but by my reckoning if someone had double vision in both eyes they would see four of everything, not two. To my relief the girl quickly corrected our teacher, “No, not two of you. I see eight of you.”

Somewhere deep in my subconscious a fuse blew. Wouldn’t that be two-eyed quadruple vision? And you’re sitting on the back row!? Maybe distance helped her get it all sorted out.

To substantiate her claim she added, “It’s been medically tested and proven.”

“I wonder how they test that,” I thought. I visualized her eye doctor holding up ten fingers and asking, “How many am I holding up?” Long pause. “Eighty?”

I was glad she was already off the road when I had been driving to class. Mental note to self, arriving late could save my life.

Then it was the turn of the thin young man to my left who was sporting an Abraham Lincoln-like beard. Settling back deep in his chair he started wagging out an interesting address,

     “Well, I have been told I have a fine balance between
      the right and left sided hemispheres of my brain.  I 
      believe this is collaborated by the evidence that I have
      an electrical engineering degree yet am also an amateur 
      painter and song-writer.  I also study philosophy.  In fact, 
      (here he chuckled quietly to himself) let me tell you that 
      as an undergraduate student my advisor had to pull me 
      out of several philosophy classes because I was taking 
      them too seriously.”  

Abruptly, he finished. My concrete-sequential-grey-matter struggled to decide which of the two ice-breaker questions he had answered. Probably the second. Was his unique attribute his brain? Well, one thing was unique: the linkage ‘twixt his brain and mouth.

Photo Credit: Q Anya

Is Teaching Supposed to be This Hard?

delinquent police deptSome of my students are very difficult to deal with (er… instruct).

Since I haven’t been a teacher long my first reaction is, “Well, this all must be because of me, I must be the problem.” So I try to be nicer, more accomadating, more helpful, and more patient.

And then I find out they’re having problems in other classes too. Or in some cases, with the law. For instance, one of my more difficult students just got incarcerated. And another – who was also quite trying – just got expelled for gang fighting.

So I guess I’m learning maybe it’s not all my fault. I’m just not used to working with kids who “act out” to the extent some of these do.

Does that mean I should be less patient or less kind with these “problem” kids? Naw, of course not. But it does make me less likely to cut them slack. They need discipline somewhere in their lives and my classroom is a good place to start.

Also… I’ve been amazed at how quickly and dramatically a few rough characters can bring down their peers. The negative influence of even one rebellious student is highly infectious. I never would have believed how poisionous to a classroom a rotten attitude is if I hadn’t seen it first hand.

I’m learning you can’t accomadate their behaviour, you have to CRACK DOWN on it. It’s best for everyone.

Like Dr. Seuss says, “Now my troubles are going to have trouble with me!”

Photo Credit: Juvenile Delinquent

I’ve Really Gotta Go!

Earlier this week in one of my classes a student suddenly out of the blue loudly blurted out,
“Can I get a bathroom pass? I’ve really gotta go!”
“No.” This is my characteristic response. It’s easy for students to ask for hall passes and special privileges but it’s equally easy for me to say no. Which I do. The word “no” is such a wonderful word.

The situation escalated. Wailing. Pleading. Begging. Mercy, just a little mercy, PLEASE!
“If I can’t go to the bathroom right now…! I’m gonna pee all over the floor, right HERE!

Really? Right there? Uh-oh, this was becoming serious. Perhaps even alarming.

“Ok,” I back pedaled. “I’ll give you a bathroom pass. On one condition.”
“Yeah, what’s that?”
“The length of time you’re gone from class to the bathroom is the length of time you get to stay in here after class.”

You know what this girl did when she heard that? I’ll tell you. She let out an agonized cry* and I can’t describe it any other way.

Isn’t the drama in these classrooms amazing?

“So, do you still want a bathroom pass?” I asked.
“No,” she answered, with surprising calm and composure.
That wonderful word “no” again. See? the students like it too.

And she didn’t even pee right there.

*Some elements of this tale have been exaggerated for the sake of a good story