Last night, I taught 45 beginning Spanish students, the majority of whom did not really want to be there. MOST of the students, all males between the ages of 18 and 24, were attentive and polite. They had a mindset that if they had to be in class, then they might as well learn something. There were about five students, however, who had no desire or intention of learning anything. It was like a typical high school classroom with one big difference: LEVERAGE.
These students chew tobacco instead of gum; they do not need to graduate, do not get a grade and do not need to show any achievement in the language. They do, however, get a $50 bonus just for showing up. Mind you, they don't have to be there mentally, just physically. Class lasted for 1.5 hours, a perfect length for some, and 1.5 hours too long for a few others. Two students, who were sitting in the FRONT row, chatted through the entire class. Three others passed their cell phones back and forth as they watched videos and talked. The other forty paid attention for the most part, in between distracting outbursts from the three video watchers and the distracting drone of the two chatterboxes in the front. The truth of the matter is that everyone would have acquired more, if those five rude and obnoxious students had not been there.
Although it was frustrating, I was glad to endure it, because it was a reminder of what REAL classes are like. We tend to focus on instruction in IDEAL circumstances, and last evening reminded me that I need to focus on REAL situations. Even the best TPRS teachers do not achieve 100% engagement 100% of the time. Even the best have students who will never reach their full linguistic potential, because, quite simply, they don't want to.
The video clip that I've uploaded will give you a glimpse of what happened last night in class. It definitely was not a homerun story, nor one that *I* would choose, but it kept the majority of them engaged for a good portion of class. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to engage EVERYONE, and I honestly don't know if ANYTHING could have...
I can't find the video clip, I really want to see it.
Wednesday, 17 March 2010 12:48
posted by Barbara S. Andrews
Honestly, Carol, it is SO HARD to teach kids anything this time of year, especially after lunch! I really don't like to be negative, but so many kids today don't want to do anything that requires much effort on their part. No matter how hard I try, I can't get some kids to pay attention because they really don't care. And while it's true that I'm just a TPRS beginner, I also know it's not all my fault. I could be a veteran like you and there would still be some kids not paying attention who are also distracting some who are trying to pay attention.
I just hope some of the kids are learning IN SPITE of all this. But on days like today, I feel so discouraged that I am running around working so hard to teach in an entertaining way at the same time as trying to keep order in the class. I am totally exhausted!