Last year I taught the poem Richard Cory for the first time. I chose the poem after hearing a great lecture by another teacher about the poem. But my main reason for choosing it was because I felt that despite the difficult language, the concept would be easy for my pupils to understand. And they did. For them Richard Cory was rather like the celebrities they see on TV and follow on the Internet. He was handsome and rich but not happy. “Outside” isn’t the same as “inside” – that made sense to them.
However, after teaching the poem I received a great deal of criticism and many heartfelt, emotional (and scary!) warnings that teaching a poem relating to suicide to teenagers is a risky business.
So, now I find myself about to start teaching The Road Not Taken. It’s a lovely poem and on the national curriculum, but I’m a bit concerned. The vocabulary is very hard but then so was the vocabulary of Richard Cory. I’ve prepared pre-reading activities and vocabulary exercises. But the concepts seem more abstract to me and some of my pupils tend to think in a very concrete manner. I can imagine some of them saying: “what difference does it make which road he takes, as long as he exits the wood?”
Today, an 18-year-old twelfth grader wanted to know why I couldn’t move the time of the NATIONAL Matriculation exams from one p.m to 09:00 a.m. I explained ( and not for the first time!) that I don’t make decisions regarding such exams but he insisted” You don’t understand” he said. “It’s not comfortable for me , I want to do it in the morning, please move it”. Sigh.
It makes me wonder if it is a problem we have with our system. Some of these kids go through till 12th grade (or beyond, they can stay an extra two years!) feeling that everything is about THEM and what THEY need or want. Special Ed programs are often called “greenhouses” becasue we protect them, but when do we let them see the real world?
I actually do understand that it would be easier for my pupils to take the exams in the mornings but when you claim you want to reach national standards you have to go by national rules!
Every now and again I have pupils who seem to think that if I really wanted to, I could move the exams to the mornings…
As a special ed. teacher, it has always been my policy to create learning experiences as related to the pupils’ personally as I possibly can, but to leave my own personal life out of it. The pupils know I have two boys, and that I am always a 107 years old, and that’s that.
But one year ago almost to the day (Dec. 25th to be exact) our youngest son went on an amazing youth trip to the ANTARCTIC! We were extremely excited before he left and of course during the three weeks he was away (B.T.W – almost no phone contact the whole time. Just postings on the expedition website! HARD!) I didn’t mention this in class.
After our son returned, he made a slide show and lectured in different classes at his high-school. In the slide show you could follow the stages of his long journey on the map, see icebergs, penguins and life on the boat. So, I decided to create a suitable worksheet (with answers to be found in the slideshow) in easy English for my pupils and bring it to class. The level of general knowledge and world geography knowledge is pretty low in many of my groups. I hoped that the fact that this is a true story about my own son would capture the student’s interest and something about the Antarctic might sink in.
The results were mixed. Some pupils did react as I had hoped. But others basically only reacted to the fact that the teacher’s son was lucky enough to get a full scholarship and THEY would never be so lucky (luck, yeah, he found the organization, filled out forms, wrote essays, got recommendations, got the scholarship only the second time round, but for them it was like winning the lottery). They weren’t interested in the rest at all.
I haven’t shown the slideshow to the new 10th graders this year and I’m debating if I should…
I read this post today and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I can identify with the feelings described here very strongly – so many projects and initiatives I’ve tried to implement over the years , devoting a great deal of energy, and only some of them made it htrough “the obstacle course”. Many of those that did were ones that did not happen at once and took more than one school year to be realized.
I thought I had learned to accept that I’m here for “the long haul” and its an achievement even if it happens a year later, but my reaction to this post was so strong that perhaps I’m still not there yet!
No, it is nothing educational like ” I made a child’s face light up when he understood the concept”.
Today I’m proud to report that I actually got the school janitor to come to my classroom. Not only did he disconnect the two flashing neon lights, he actually replaced one of them! I spend an inordinate amount of time getting him to keep “the bare necessities” in my English Room in good order!
I know we’re supposed to encourage responsibility and student-like behavior and I usually try to do that. However, some of these pupils are “special ed” in more ways than one. Mix that with the fact that I’m teaching deaf Israeli , Hebrew speakers, English as a FOREIGN language and it’s a tough subject, I must “pick my fights”. And so, like on this stormy day, you will find me handing out paper, pencils and most importantly – supplying a tissue box! I have other “battles to wage!”
Teaching English as a FOREIGN language to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students