Apr 14, 2011

Here I am

"MrRitchieMrRitchie!! You're my favourite teacher! Do we have you for maths today?"

"You sure do."

"Cool! I wish you could be my teacher for every class!"

I know she's just saying that because she wants to slack off, and to give her some emotional leverage, but I can't help smile. It feels nice to be appreciated. It doesn't last long, however- 3 minutes later and she's crying, "This is boring, Mr. Ritchie!"

Is it? You've got me as a teacher. Your favourite teacher. Right?


It's great to get in front of the kids, though. It feels good to know I'm doing what I can to fight on the side of education, competing with such formidable foes as boyfriend/girlfriend woes/joys, video games, family troubles, drugs (legal and otherwise) and of course, Justin Bieber. All of which seem more exciting/important than discovering how to calculate the area of a circle.

We live in an age where the exciting elements of my own high school education would bore modern teenagers to tears. So much stimulation through daily, energy drink fuelled mayhem renders a video in class, or an experiment in a lab as exciting to a young mind as writing out lines off the board.

How do I compete? There are a few possible answers:

1. Don't. Ensure that deadlines are met, and inappropriate behaviour is punished. They're not here to have fun. They're here to learn.

2. Get excited about it yourself. Children are fairly cluey. Chances are, if you wouldn't enjoy the activity- neither would they.

3. Make discovery important. It's hard to make a well-defined activity as entertaining as something that gives the students a sense of responsibility for their learning. If there is a structured environment within which they have free rein to explore, then they'll get more out of it than if you serve them everything on a platter of direct instruction.

4. Set challenges with extrinsic rewards. Sure the reward for grasping a mathematical concept can be the knowledge itself, but couldn't it also be chocolate? Or a game in which students use said knowledge to compete with their classmates?

5. Know your audience. If someone mentions they're getting ready to see the Justin Bieber movie on the weekend, why not ask them how it was when you see them again on Monday? If a student feels you're making the effort to engage them as a person, they may be more willing to meet you part way in their school work.

There are many correct answers (unlike most of our school activities), but it really helps if you understand the background of your students. Knowing just a little of where many of my students come from, I'm just grateful to be a (hopefully) positive influence these children may not otherwise have.

I've been so very blessed in my placement so far. It's a rough school, but I've got a great mentor. He also just finished running a few short sessions with the CU team of a Wednesday night. Two nights ago we talked about justice and the reason for lots of things that suck in this world- and how knowledge of the bad news of our sin, and the associated separation from God, makes the good news of Jesus all the sweeter. Praise God that we have such a good Saviour!

TSC is a teacher. Bring it on!

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