Sunday, March 13, 2011

Voice of Reason

I had an epiphany today. Or I guess Jimmy helped me to have an epiphany. I consider myself a reasonable person. I believe that there is nothing a good talk (and perhaps some chocolate) can't solve. I hope for world peace one day, and really do hope for it. I'm not just saying that because you are supposed to. I consider myself a Repubicrat. I've coined that term recently. There are values from each political party that hold near and dear to my heart, and I can't be restricted to vote a certain way just because the political party I'm associated with votes that way.

I try to reason with everyone. Honestly I think if everyone could just take the time to understand each other, we would all get along better. If someone says something I don't agree with, I don't fly off the handle at them. I try to explain my point of view, and try to understand why they feel they way they do.

I came home from Church today completely defeated and in tears. While my seating chart did help the class from talking as much, somehow during my lesson political jokes and racist comments started being said. I quickly tried to reign everyone back in, but by that point I felt like the spirit was so far gone it couldn't even find its way back if it wanted to. In short, I failed. Again. After all the effort I've put into trying to succeed in teaching my class something substantial this week, I felt horrible.

I was more horrified at what certain kids said. Really? I'm fairly confident that these children do not hear this kind of talk from their parents. At least I hope. And pray. All we need are more bigots in the world. I think that scared me the most. I couldn't let those kids leave my class thinking it was ok to say stuff like that.

I went over what happened with Jimmy later and he asked me why I even let those topics creep into the lesson in the first place. I explained that I was trying to explain to the kids why what they were saying was not right, and not acceptable. Basically I was trying to reason with them. Jimmy told me that was my 1st problem. Trying to reason with 13 year olds. Hmmm...

He has a good point. I was trying to reason with them. But how can they reason when they have no idea what they are talking about. I forget sometimes that they are only 13 and don't have the knowledge and life experience that I've gained in my 26 soon to be 27 years.

I still find myself trying to reason with Brynlee. It never works out. Hmmm. Peculiar. Maybe I'm too big on reasoning with people. Some people, ie 10 month old infants cannot be reasoned with. And I think to some degree 13 year olds can't either.

I've tried to run my class in a way that if the kids had something they wanted to discuss even if it was slightly off topic we could discuss it. I wanted to keep the class open, so everyone could share what was on their mind. I'm done with that now. My seating chart worked out pretty well ( in that the talking was minimal). Next week if anyone starts to get off topic I will cut them off and guide us back to the topic at hand. Unless the topic they are trying to discuss is worthy of discussing.

Maybe my class isn't that bad. Maybe it's just that I was trying to teach it like I was teaching my peers, as opposed to teenagers. They are 1/2 my age after all. So in this case, " it's not you its me" really does ring true. Rather than trying to change what they do, I'll change what I do and see how it goes. Using a little candy as an incentive won't hurt either!


Heather and Spencer said...

Spencer and I know all too well about the racial comments/jokes...things like that happening with our youth was getting pretty bad. If I were you, I would talk with the other leaders in YM/YW and see if they are hearing any of the same things. We ended up having Pres Sheranian come for a fireside regarding those issues and how our youth were treating each other...asking that at least one parent attend with their youth. He did a fabulous job and was pretty direct regarding the issues we were having. My guess is that if they are saying these things in your class, they are saying them other places too and it is something that needs to be addressed before it gets out of hand. Just a thought. I also don't think you should hesitate getting their parents involved. If it were my kid, I would be mortified that their teacher asked me to sit in on the class because of my kids behavior! You had better believe my kid would be better behaved in the future!
Sorry you are having to deal with this, I do know how you feel! Hope things start getting better soon! Good luck with whatever you choose to do!

Audrey Spence said...

Another thing I did one week... pulled a guilt trip. Yes, I gave my 14 and 15 yr olds a guilt trip. It just happens to be my lucky year where we are learning from the New Testament. And who do we focus on the majority of the time in the NT? That would be our lovely Savior, Jesus Christ. So when the kids were starting to act up the beginning of class I said "you know you guys, I'm getting really tired of the talking. Please pay attention. If not out of respect for me at least do it out of respect for the Savior because he is who we are learning about and the least you could do is take this class time to listen and learn about him." Best part... it worked! They were so much better in class. Love it! But yeah, sticking to the topic is very helpful. If it's something that's more random I say lets save that for after class but if its a gospel related thing or close to it that has to do with what we're talking about, I'll allow it. The key is to not make them afraid of asking things only to be shut down and directed another way. It's not easy but let the spirit guide you and pray for help I'm sure you'll get the inspiration you need to do what's best for you class. It never hurts to pray for them so maybe praying for them every week too that they can be better. I know that's such a cheesy mormon answer but hey, it can work!

Sarah said...

Liz, I completely know how you feel (as a former English teacher of 13 year olds). I had a class as a student teacher that made me almost cry every day. In fact, one time I had to restrain myself from running (yes running) away and out of the building forever.

But the epiphany you've had is spot on. Just like you, I had to learn how to THINK and ACT like I was in CHARGE! I had to practice giving instructions directly instead of asking my students to do things in an oh-so-nice almost-wishy-washy kind of way. (Instead of "Um, I think you better move." I said, "Josh, move to this desk at the front right now." Instead of, "Hey guys, we probably shouldn't talk like that", I said "Melanie! David! Those comments are totally inappropriate." And then move back to the lesson quickly.) Just remember, YOU are in charge of the lesson. And with 13 year olds you're probably going to have to cut them off and bring it back to the appropriate topic many times. But after a few weeks, they will learn.

And like Heather said, I would definitely talk to parents, leaders, bishop, etc. about this. In fact, before I read her comment I thought, "Oh my gosh! Does my dad know about this?!" He would be just as horrified as you!!!!

Sarah said...

By the way, I also completely agree with Audrey. In fact, her advice sounds better than mine!!!

Heather and Spencer said...

Sarah, your dad did such an awesome job with the fireside for our youth! I think getting him involved made a big impact on our youth! I think they realized how serious we were about there being problems with what was going on and that the stake presidency was there to support us.