One unintended consequence of my fledgling career in teaching is the adoption of some phrases that used to drive me crazy as a kid. The thing is, once you’ve grown up and tried your hand at communicating with children on a regular basis, these sayings start to make a bit more sense.
Although almost every measure I have shows my kids are making progress, the day-to-day instruction can still be maddening. With a few exceptions asking my kids to recall and use vocabulary and explain concepts from prior lessons is almost always fruitless. Sometimes even asking them to draw on vocabulary from that same lesson yields nothing but frustration. Often conversations are just a mess of vocabulary with no signs of understanding.
Even since realizing how much vocabulary support my students need as English Language Learners, sometimes the frustration is too much for me to handle. Against my deeper understanding, I berate the kids for not listening carefully enough. “You aren’t paying attention. You need to listen. It’s like what I say goes in one ear and out the other. You can’t just mix and match vocabulary!” As if the kids are intentionally misusing words to drive me crazy.
In spite of my efforts to mix up instructional approaches, the vocabulary and concepts just don’t seem to stick. Hands-on and inquiry-based lessons don’t seem to be working. While I think I must be missing some piece from my teaching, I also feel justified in my frustration that some of the kids really aren’t paying attention.
I suppose it could be bit of both problems. Either way, I need to find a new way forward, because I can see all but the highest-performing students struggling to grasp the material. Now that I feel I’ve mastered the classroom management I’m determined to bring my instruction to the same level. Unfortunately time is running short to make a difference with this group of students.