Although I’ve been a teacher for 12 years, this year is my very first in the classroom. I feel very lucky to have been chosen to lead the Academy of Computer Science at a high school in my county. I currently have 2 classes of Academy students. These are kids that applied to be in the program. These are kids that are extremely motivated and dedicated to succeeding in high school. If all 3 of my classes were these students, I’d have the easiest job in the world.
I then have a third class. My third class probably looks a lot more like a typical classroom. In this class of 29 students, 6 of them spent time in our district’s alternative school last year. This year alone, 3 of them have had in-school suspensions, one was removed from class and is now facing expulsion. Just today, I found chewing tobacco under one of my tables immediately after that class left. The thing is…I love these kids. I already care about every single one of them. Even with those that I struggle with, I love chatting with them about their day, their interests, and their lives outside of school. So far though, caring for them just hasn’t been enough.
This class is the type of class that requires a lot of independent work. We’re currently working toward our Microsoft Office certifications in Word. I know, it’s not the most exciting subject but it’s a district requirement so it’s something we have to do. The best way for my students to learn this stuff is to practice, practice, practice. I’ve tried and tried to make it as engaging as I possibly can but, in the long run, the kids ultimately have to be responsible for their own learning in this class. Hence my struggle…
Many of the kids in this class just will not stay focused on the work that needs to be done. As hard as I try, I cannot convince them of the importance to get this work done so they do not fall too far behind. I spend much of my day reminding them to stay focused, turn around, stop touching your neighbor’s keyboard, etc. The ground rules were set early in the year. They know what their expectations are, they are just refusing to do what they need to do to be successful. The class is an easy class…get the work done and you’ll be successful. How do I get them to care? I’m beginning to feel a bit of pressure since so much of our evaluation is now based solely on their success on these certification exams. In addition, I don’t want to find myself spending all of my time focusing on these kids while ignoring the rest of the kids in my class.
I need help. Any suggestions for this new classroom teacher?