Back in the spring of 2011, I spent some time learning to teach in a local middle school. The first few weeks were spent getting used to the school, school rules, the kids and the teacher. The last couple weeks focused on how to deliver messages to the kids. My main problem is that I’m only there once a week, so I don’t really get to know the kids, their weakness, and their strengths. I also don’t get to know what makes them excited about life and learning.The kids in my classes are around 13 years old. At first I didn’t realize that they had a whole range of problems, but they do. After a few weeks I sat in on one of the teacher meetings where I learned quite a few things that I would have never known had I not gotten a chance to go behind the scenes, as were. The teachers talked about these kids with equal parts concern and exasperation. What can they do, what should they do, what is the next step? All questions they strived to answer as a group. To say this situation is challenging is an understatement. Each kid is different and has their own reasons for doing what they do. If the reason is medical the frustration and feelings of helplessness continue to grow. Compounding these feelings of frustration is the knowledge that these trouble kids are actually really smart.
The teachers said it was due to socio-economic factors. I can see that. There is a pretty good mix of different socio-economic classes here, but a good portion of them are actually pretty poor. They say it is because parents don’t care about their child’s grades, often because they don’t have time to spend on their kids. The teachers think it is because the parents want to be their kid’s friend, as a way to make up for the loss of their time with them.
One day I sat in on a after school detention period and got a completely different perspective on the situation. The kids in there were talking to the teacher, and it really gave me a lot of insight as to what they think. Simply put, they are kids. It is a general consensus that school is boring, and they would rather be playing. From the kid’s point of view, classes go too long, then they get fidgety. They are denied recess, so they have no way to get that energy out. With all the classes piled on top of each other, by the end of the day they are just unruly.
With these insights I don’t know what the main factor is to the apathy, laziness or whatever you want to call the lack of excitement from the students stems from. My thoughts are that it is a little bit of everything, not one or another. Maybe the school’s expectations are too high. They are trying to produce scholars, but these are just kids. Not all of them are scholars, so they shouldn’t be treated as such. To this end, my thoughts are that perhaps the system and societies expectations need to be re-examined and possibly altered to fit the reality of life. Kids are kids. While we mean the best for them in the future, they shouldn’t be rushed to be adults.