Monday, March 13, 2006

Real teaching.

I think one of the main things that causes students to turn away from schooling is the teachers' mentality that students are somehow inferior to them. I loathe this mentality, detest it. I feel like a real person, and when teachers feel the need to condescend and dumb things down in order for us to get it, I feel as if I'm slamming my head into a wall. How can someone teach who is incapable of seeing who is being taught? The best teachers are those who see us as people, not students. I don't care what is being taught, it won't be successful if the students feel condescended to. I don't care what any teacher, however smart, says, I am a real person and I know that I'm capable of logical thought process and I know that I'm capable of appreciating concepts whether they're "appropriate" or not. Arrest me, I've watched R-rated movies before. And, horror of horrors, I didn't sit sniggering at the f-word and my retinas are still intact after seeing a few scenes with nudity in them. And, surprise, at the tender age of only 15, I'm capable of looking past the nudity and cussing and seeing the message of the movie. Shawshank Redemption, is it "appropriate"? No, but it is a genuinely good movie with a good message. But clearly, since I was only 13, I couldn't possibly understand the movie. No, certainly not, all thirteen year olds are incapable of understanding a mature movie.

And it all depends on the students, but teachers who lump all the morons who get drunk on weekends and don't have the attention span of a fly with the regular people are really detrimental. Because even the morons who do dumb things are capable of comprehending concepts. And everyone suffers.

A certain comment on a certain other blog really made me angry. It was along the lines of, "this movie really has a good point, but I don't think the students are capable of understanding the content or "getting" the message." That really bothered me. My response to that was such:

"I hate to offend, but it's often this kind of issue where students turn from education. All too often, we feel as if our teachers are condescending or trying to spoonfeed us things. I would suggest you sit down with a few students and really talk to them. Not about grades or what they did in biology last week. But talk ot them, you'll find that we're people. Actual people with thought processes just as complex as anyone over the age of eighteen. Any given student in any given class is not only capable of getting a message, however disturbing it may be, but really learning from it. Mental maturity and ability to "get" things is not magically bestowed upon us on our eighteenth birthday. I don't know where exactly the line is between 6 and 15, but we are much more capable than people seem to think. It really depends on the student, but we are very much the same as you are. Young students hold that belief that teachers sleep under their desks and aren't real people, that mentality seems to be reversed sometimes.

There is certainly a line between 6 and 15, but as a 15 year old, I certainly feel like I'm capable of appreciating just as many ideas, however disturbing, as my teachers. Who knows, perhaps I'm wrong and there really is some sort of intellectual epiphany at 18. But where is the line at any age? Is there a real line between a high school sophomore and a college sophomore?

I know I strayed from the topic about links and blogging, but I really felt the need to express my thoughts on this. Sometimes adults, parents, teachers or just people in the community forget that teenagers are still people. I could be wrong, but I certainly feel like a real person, and I hope to remind people that perhaps we aren't so different after all."

I really wish that every adult who deals with youth could sit down and think back to their high school and college years. I certainly feel like an intellectually capable person. And although we may lack life experience, we still have valid thoughts, opinions and beliefs, and when an adult totally dismisses them on the grounds that they're "older than you, better than you, and that's just how it is," it makes us feel inferior. And we're not inferior. When does a student become an adult with valid opinions? Because, for years, I've thought of things that seem worth thinking about, but when I offer my opinions to adults, they're entirely dismissed. What happens when I turn 18? Do I get blessed by the God of Sudden Knowledge and Wisdom? Cause if that's the case I'd love to know so I could just shut up and stop spewing all this wrong information. Are my opinions suddenly valid when I turn 18? Or am I just the same as anyone else? Please, I'd really love to know.

Every teacher should take a lesson from a mentor. My mentor is my archery instructor. I've known him since I was seven. The reason we get along so well is that from the moment he met me, he respected me. He was the first and only adult I could ever really talk to about real things. I could talk to him about my ideas, and he would listen as if there were some minute chance that I could have a legitimate thought in my head. And even better, he would tell me the truth. He didn't sugar-coat things for me. He realized that even though I'm young, I can understand the full depth of things. That's a real teacher.

I apologize for the length, but I really needed to rant a little bit.


Blogger DougW5 said...

The age 18 does not bring gifts of respect and realized wisdom. Ask any 18 year old. Being 18 yets you the respect of being 15, with the responsibilities of an adult. When are your ideas respected? When you shout them out, screaming your bloody head off with grace.
Though few of us youth have been heard, there are some. There are the martyrs of all causes, violent and peaceful. There are the children who have told their stories of imprisonment, torture, and repression. To be sure, it is not easy to be young, but all is not lost; some still listen, like your mentor. And in the likely case that you don't feel like being a martyr to get heard, there's always your younger peers to share with. (Ahem). Y'know, those people who want to hear you talk more...

In any case, invalidation can be suppressed with that smug feeling of satisfaction begotten when one leaves behind the standards. Define the baseline for yourself, regardless of intrusive forces (School, friends, parents, coworkers) to enjoy not feeling looked down upon. Just smile like an idiot and rejoice in every moment because you're still alive, sucking down exhaust and sitting through CSAP. Do it for the sole reason that it's always better than the alternative--realizing how much your priviledged life seems to suck.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Crosby said...

In one sense, I agree with you. Teachers should expose high school students to all sorts of materials. Many of our students will understand the content and "get" the message, and those who can't do so on their own can be taught how to understand the content and get the message. However, I caution against thinking that when a teacher makes a decision about what is "appropriate," he or she is only thinking about the students. Most likely, the teacher is also thinking about how an administrator or a parent - or a talk show host :( - might interpret the use of a particular material. As an example: I am using the film Ghosts of Mississippi in my freshman classes during the Civil Rights unit. The film is rated PG-13 for some slightly foul language and because it depicts Medgar Evers' murder (a gunshot in the back). All of my students are at least 14, and yet I sent home a parent / guardian permission slip to be signed. Any student who failed to return the signed slip received an alternative, out-of-the-room assignment. Why did I do this? 1) Because I think that parents have a right to know if a teacher is using a material like this in class. 2) I do not want to get sued for doing my job. In a lawsuit-happy country like ours, the last thing any teacher wants to do is end up being sued and being cast in media as a horrible person.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Ms. Kakos said...

First of all, it's so strange to read this because I just posted something quite similar on my personal blog.

Anyway, I understand your frustration, Molly, especially because you are at least as perceptive as many adults I know. However, I agree with Amanda that our cautions stem not from a belief that students "can't handle" foul language or nudity, but from fear of being persecuted by a parent or district administrator. The Jay Bennish affair amplifed these fears...I think many teachers now wonder if presenting something controversial in the classroom will result in their staff picture being plastered all over the news. Each day we face an average of 100 students (sometimes more), and each student has the potential to misunderstand or mispresent what a teacher said or did. While our school is lucky enough to have an understanding and supportive administration, it's still difficult to measure how far "out there" we're willing to put ourselves.

12:52 PM  

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