Category Archives: That Kid

They’re Still Kids

Last night while I worked the booth at our football game and we played against an inferior team, a parent said to me “how can they be playing so badly?”

I replied, “They’re kids.”

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Yes, our team is more athletic, better coached (I’d argue), and more practiced, but a high school football team is made up of 14-18 year-old kids. If you’ve ever worked with teens, you know that even the most intelligent students can be emotional, rash, and mistake-prone. They are not perfect. They err. If they were perfect, they wouldn’t need to be in school.

If you’ve ever coached high school football, you also know that anything can happen in a high school game, especially the first game of the season when the kids get their first taste of hitting an opponent instead of their teammates. The kids can be overly driven by emotion, feel overconfident, revert to bad habits that you’ve worked on in practice, and more.

This is just like the classroom. I have taught my students how to use advanced skills when writing their essays, provided feedback, sat one-on-one with kids, and given multiple practices and then watched my students ignore all of that teaching, coaching, and practicing when writing the very next essay. We then have to go back to those previous skills–the ones they already showed me they could perform–and remind, re-teach, and review.

Sometimes kids are just kids.

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Surprising Question from a Student

When I conducted the activity I mentioned a couple days ago, one of the anonymous questions surprised (and interested) me.

A student asked: do you really care about your students’ educations or are you just here for the paycheck like my teachers last year?

However, in my head I thought that this was a student who hears bad things about teachers at home or had a very poor Freshman year experience at my school. I’m not sure which I hoped was the answer.

In truth, I’m guessing this student had a sad alignment of our least effective and driven teachers. We all know who the teachers are who would rather be buddies with kids than authority figures, those who want to be the new Video King, those who want to do as little as possible, and those who simply work the minimum number of hours and go home. Every school has them, and we would lobby to get our own kids into different teachers’ classes.

What saddened me, though, was this was a student who even thought that teachers perform their jobs for the money without caring about kids. How can a teacher not care about kids? It’s anathema to every piece of my teaching philosophy.

Day 4 of the school is tomorrow, and I want to start changing that student’s view on education and teaching.

Suicide Scores?

An L.A. teacher’s published test scores are cited as a contributing factor in his apparent suicide. Is it possible that publishing his test scores and labeling him below average helped push him over the edge? Possibly. I don’t know.

What I do know, though, is that teaching is more stressful than ever before, and taking on the toughest students in a school will not lead to the best test scores. This could unfairly label highly effective students.

I have a girl in my Sophomore English class right now who attends class; she does very little work, but she attends every day. According to her Freshman English teacher, this is a marked improvement and she complimented me on keeping her attending. She called it a step in the right direction.

While I don’t think I am the reason she attends, I do think she and I are slowly building a positive rapport. Will it be enough to make her care, try, and succeed? Maybe.

Regardless, she will not win me any effective teacher points on a state test.

My Admission of Guilt

I’d love to say the graph below represents my students, but it was me today. My head bobbed twice today during a student’s paper reading. However, in my defense, the kid’s monotone almost sent me off to dreamland.

Fortunately, the next student was fantastic and kept me riveted. I’m taking credit for the second kid. 🙂

Teens and Texting

Maybe you have seen the shoulders scrunched in together, the head down, the hand at the side of the thigh, or the trips to the restroom at the same time each day. I have and I know it means the dreaded text messaging occurring during class time has struck once again. I even had a student answer a text while giving her speech!

And now, according to a recent NY Times article, texting may have more negative effects than previously thought, and here’s a statistic for you:

American teenagers sent and received an average of 2,272 text messages per month in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Nielsen Company — almost 80 messages a day, more than double the average of a year earlier.

Also included in the article are the following imapcts detailing that texting can lead to:

  • anxiety,
  • distraction in school,
  • falling grades,
  • sleep deprivation, and
  • repetitive stress injury.

Dr. Martin Joffe observed students in a couple high schools and, after watching the volume of texts being sent and received,  remarked, “That’s one [text] every few minutes,” he said. “Then you hear that these kids are responding to texts late at night. That’s going to cause sleep issues in an age group that’s already plagued with sleep issues.”

Sherry Turkle at MIT noted the following:

“Among the jobs of adolescence are to separate from your parents, and to find the peace and quiet to become the person you decide you want to be,” she said. “Texting hits directly at both those jobs.”

Psychologists expect to see teenagers break free from their parents as they grow into autonomous adults, Professor Turkle went on, “but if technology makes something like staying in touch very, very easy, that’s harder to do; now you have adolescents who are texting their mothers 15 times a day, asking things like, ‘Should I get the red shoes or the blue shoes?’ ”

As for peace and quiet, she said, “if something next to you is vibrating every couple of minutes, it makes it very difficult to be in that state of mind.

“If you’re being deluged by constant communication, the pressure to answer immediately is quite high,” she added. “So if you’re in the middle of a thought, forget it.”

Psychotherapist Michael Hausauer stated that, “teenagers had a ‘terrific interest in knowing what’s going on in the lives of their peers, coupled with a terrific anxiety about being out of the loop.’ For that reason, he said, the rapid rise in texting has potential for great benefit and great harm.”

One girl in the article discussed how she developed painful cramping in her thumbs, and another girl’s parents noticed that in one month she sent over 24,000 text messages. That’s 800 a day. That’s 33 an hour!

Now features on phones include GPS notices to tell you where the person is to whom you are speaking. We can track one another on our phones. No more lying about where you are to mom or dad or to a friend…or to your boss.

Will there be a backlash for this super-connectivity? When will it be too much?

Question of Dread

A student asked me one of those questions no one trains you to answer. No professor, mentor teacher, or administrator ever alerted me to one of these. As I was setting up my classroom for the day’s activity, a student looked at me, raised his fist over his head, and said, “Dr Pezz, smell my hand.”

Obviously, I did not want to smell this high schooler’s hand, so I honestly explained that “I had never been asked that question in my teaching career, and it frightens me.” Everyone laughed and we started the lesson.

Looking back on it, I just can’t help but think how many jobs do you have where someone asks you to smell his hand? These are the moments that keep educators on their toes and create those lasting memories. There’s no way to explain this type of thing to non-educators. I guess I might expect a mother to hear something like this but not from a high schooler.

What an odd start to the day!