Hello. It’s Mr Teachbad. A few days ago we began a new feature here at Teachbad Industries called Ask Mr. Teachbad. It’s an advice column for teachers. We have received many very good questions. This is the first installment of responses. But first, here are some things to note:
1) I will clearly not be able to respond to all questions;
2) Please send questions to email@example.com with “advice” in the subject line rather than as a comment to a post;
3) All else equal, the shorter question will get answered;
4) Thanks for your participation.
OK…here we go:
Dear Mr. Teachbad,
Between every period in the hall outside of my room I have a pack of inquisitive teenagers experimenting with sticking their tongues in each other’s mouths. I have tried yelling, “Get a room.” I tell them it’s flu season. I have even tried rubbing them with a fabric softener in case it’s a static cling issue, but to no avail. This is not the full extent (no pun intended) of the problem, however, because once these same teenagers are sitting in my desks I cannot inspire them to be passionate about anything, including the time I arranged to have God come as a guest speaker on the subject of Dante’s vision of Hell. How might I inspire them to care as much English as sucking face? Pleeeese help me…my administration wants to form a committee and begin meetings because kissing is not on the test. My effectiveness as a teacher is at stake here. I want to do the right thing, but feel impotent.
Bygone Era (aka Two Cents)
You feel impotent? And watching the teenagers “sucking face” makes you feel this way? That might just keep you out of jail. But you probably don’t want to rub them with anything, just to be on the safe side. “Get a room” won’t work because that’s a technique used to induce a sense of shame or embarrassment. The problem is that these are already missing.
I would also note that you are making a link between two problems that does not exist. That the spit swapping problem is somehow related to or carries over to cause a lack of interest in English is absurd. That’s like complaining that the lion keeps eating the gazelles and then doesn’t even want to go for a bike ride. Your school may or may not have a systemic PDA problem. Maybe it’s just your room. In any case, I would ignore it and definitely stay away from committees. As for making students passionate about English, that’s all you.
Dear Mr. Teachbad,
Why is it totally impossible to move the kids who aren’t ready for my math class down to a lower level, but my kids who are ready for a higher level get moved out of my class immediately? Is the system being rigged to keep my average low? Has my administration simply decided that those kids are going to fail no matter what class they’re in, so they might as well fail a higher math class rather than a lower one?
Thanks in advance,
Musky in Maryland
You are projecting and shifting blame. “Wah wah wah!!!…my students aren’t ready for my class…Boo hoo hoo!…My administrators don’t listen to me!”
The only time I worry about a teacher is when he quits bitching. You need to teach longer and harder. You may also need to adjust the angle and thrust of your teaching. That’s right…yeah…just like that.
That said, you may have a point. On one level it probably looks better to have more people failing higher-level classes. If you’re all going to screw the pooch anyway, we might as well make it sound hard.
Dear Mr. Teachbad,
How do I make my students, on average 6 grade levels below standard, become on average 3 grade levels above standard, in one school year? I am being told this is my SMART goal (achievable being the operative word) so I am sure it can be easily done, but nobody seems to be able to tell me how. It must be common knowledge because they all insist this is my goal, even though I tried to explain that I was supposed to set my own SMART goal. Plus my district says they are data driven, so they must have the data to prove that this can be done.
I am sure that you know. Please share.
With big eyes of sincerity, I am
Adrift in America
First, let me just say that the children are the future. Second, are you saying that you are supposed to raise them nine grade levels in one year? That’s it? I mean you can’t raise them, but I have a feeling that if you set high expectations for your students they just might surprise you!
I know that SMART goals seem pretty lame and that inexperienced APs pass them around like smokes at an AA meeting because it’s just such an irresitably fucking cool acronym, but…well…I guess that kind of stands on its own, doesn’t it?
Anyway, Adrift, this is a chance for you to shine. Show that SMART goal whose boss and quit your bitching. You might also want to consider differentiating, using positive reinforcement, collaborative planning, wishing harder, flogging yourself, flexible grouping, scaffolding, being more rigorous, using more data, putting more data on the wall. You should also make use of trackers. These are good.
Update: And thanks a million to she-knows-who who found this and sent it along. Very good stuff.
Update II: Many of you are clicking on the link above, but not enough. I think you will find it truly worth your while. And if you can’t trust Mr. Teachbad, where does that leave you?