Teachers everywhere (including my dear cousin’s husband) may hate me for saying this, but if you are going to teach, don’t bore your students. Do something—do anything—to relate to them. Yes, I know teachers have everything from Disney to the television shows Shameless, Family Guy and Community to compete with, and winning the attention of teens is probably a lot like trying to talk a tired toddler into his winter coat. And while it’s true I’ve never been a teacher, I have spent a whole lot of time in and out of the classroom at Cole’s school. Watching is not the same as doing, but guess what? Everyone has an opinion—including me.
If I were a teacher (cue music), I would find a way to engage my students. Yes, I would. A math teacher at Cole’s high school learned every student’s name while she was a substitute and promised the kids that while she was short in stature, she could and would flip them. She was fun; she had their attention in and out of the classroom. Thankfully, she earned a full time job at our school. I know teachers have tests to teach, administrators to please and parents breathing down their necks, and they have my sympathy. YES, TEACHING IS A HARD, UNDERPAID, JOB. I get it. Really. What I don’t get is sucking all the FUN out of learning. I’m sorry, some teachers just aren’t fun (and worse, they don’t care), so they hand out ridiculous assignments and justify their boring classes by making rules and complaining about the kids, parents, lack of money and how unappreciated they are, each time they walk into the classroom.
Over the past few weeks I have observed a class of 11th graders struggle through music history. The assignments lacked imagination, the lectures (according to all 14 students) were boring, the homework overwhelming. The syllabus, from my point of view, did not reflect any understanding of the students required to take the course. Worse, none of these 11th graders were inspired to want to attend Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung, a cycle of four epic operas that runs over at least as many nights. Ok, this may not be Mr. Giraffe’s (our nickname for this teacher) fault; few of us will ever sit through an opera of this magnitude. But still, if they had wanted to go before his class, he now has ruined it for them. Forever. Would it have killed Mr. Giraffe to introduce his class to Giacomo Puccini’s opera, La bohème, by telling them the modern rock musical Rent was based on it? Doesn’t it just make sense to relate the subject being taught to the learner? Of-course it does! And it’s fun for teacher and student.
The popular mindset holds that there is value in dealing with the occasional bad teacher or the bad boss, and I agree…the value is to walk away from these kinds of people. Really fast. Unfortunately, kids often don’t feel empowered to change their circumstances and feel stuck. I might stick with a difficult client because of a payout, while kids are just stuck—and worse, many adults believe it’s good for them. In this adults opinion, it sucks. Maybe, I’m not grown up enough to believe otherwise, or maybe I just had too many bad teachers growing up. Have I told you about Mrs. Bassett (I love writing her REAL NAME!), who smashed my pot in art class—the pot I was rather proud of, but was obviously not good enough for her? We usually talk about all the good teachers who made us what we are today; well, the bad ones contribute too. Mrs. Bassett crushed my pot on purpose, and along with it, my dream to become a potter. (Not really. I never wanted to be a potter, and instead gave the next project, hooking a rug, to our maid to do. Lesson learned: How to delegate.)
I challenged Cole to create one positive takeaway from the class. He chose to make a guitar. It was a good guitar. In fact, he told me that he might set up on a Chicago street corner and play for coins. I agreed he should go for it; his sign could read, Thank you, Mr. Giraffe, for teaching me everything I know about music.
Yep, I am one of those annoying parents who is almost always on my kid’s side. It works for us.
Personal to teacher cousin-in-law if you read this: You don’t know nothing about birthing babies and are not entitled to an opinion until the cord is cut. Life is not fair. ♥