Notes from a Short Summer Course

between a rock and a hard place

* Photo by Gil Epshtein

I just finished teaching a short summer course for ninth graders who will be my new 10th graders this September. Only five children (out of 8 that the course was intended for) attended the course. I will have 17 new students but the others come from mainstreaming and were not included in the course.

I’ve been teaching such summer courses for many years. We always devote a lot of time to activities related to the “ABOUT ME” topic as it is a good opportunity for me to get to know the pupils, their learning styles and interests, while learning about their level and abilities. I’m very flexible about stopping to talk about anything that comes up. As Fiona Mauchline writes in her terrific post   “A place of Greater Safety” , I think that such discussions, even though they are in Hebrew, contribute to building a good relationship with these pupils. Many of my pupils have a lot of emotional issues. If they don’t feel “secure” in a class that deals with a very frustrating subject (for children who don’t hear well!) then we get stuck at first base.

However, do these discussions, for some of the children, really have that effect? Brad Peterson’s interesting post “Do you share your values in the classroom?” made me feel proud to know teachers like Brad and sad about the discussions I had this past week in comparison, particularly with one of the girls.

This girl hears comparatively well but comes from a linguistically (and otherwise) impoverished background. That was clear from this story she related the first day. The girl told me she knows how to ride a horse. I was duly impressed and asked her where she rides as I know she live in a city. She explained that she has relatives in a village and she goes there almost every holiday and rides horses. When I asked this 15 year old the name of the village she goes to so regularly, she didn’t know! We were using fun worksheets from abroad that have Monday as the first day of the week and write the date differently from the way we do. I explained about that but her attitude was that she does things her way and the rest of the world better copy her because she’s certainly not interested in the way they do things!

This is not new to me. Like the students who insisted that zebras come from the Safari Wild Animal Park and not Africa or the one who refused to accept that it rains in the summer in other parts of the world. I call these pupils the “don’t confuse me with the facts” pupils. Sigh. Brad is discussing values with his pupils and these pupil argue about where  zebras come from!

Important to note that there are others. Not only are some of them bright and curious, some come from backgrounds where everything seems to be “against” them (profoundly deaf, poverty, immigrants etc.) and they are still amazing.

Does the fact that I’m constantly trying to expose these kids to the wider world that exists out there just intimidate those from the ‘don’t confuse me with the facts” group”? Am I shaking their teenage world by confronting them with facts such as people don’t work on Sundays in many places in the world? Because members of this group (thankfully, NOT A HUGE GROUP ) fight me every step of the way with such information.

5 thoughts on “Notes from a Short Summer Course”

  1. Thanks for the mention, Naomi !

    I thought zebras DID come from the Safari Wild Animal Park… 😉

    What do you do with such “don’t confuse me with the facts” students ? Do you bring in a book or show them the “truth” on-line ?

    A part of me would’ve loved to have dedicated more teaching to philosophy or sociology… and yet I think I get enough of that through yoga/martial arts instruction, and then talks with friends.

    Cheers, b

  2. One little thing I used to hear my Korean students always say when describing Korea was that “Korea has four distinct seasons” as though the rest of the world did not. I always marveled at how they must view places on a similar latitude, like Canada, for example. Of course, it really is a memorised introduction they learnt very young, but one that certainly shaped their world views.

  3. Naomi
    better they hear these shocking facts from you, in your classroom situation, than in the wider world of the local market or other real-life environment.

    Perhaps one-at-a-time youtube clips and discussions will widen world knowledge. Perhaps even an idea such as they prepare a clip – holding cue cards with sentence fragments instead of speaking – someone films them and uploads it to youtube so that they can see how reality translates to the net.

    That is, if X sees herself on the net and she knows she’s real, then maybe the zebra in the African wild is also real.

    just thinking aloud.
    For me: how to widen personal tastes into more liberal ones.
    How to expose students to more sophisticated artists than their tried and true and facebook-affirmed stars.

    and Congrats on completing the summer course.

  4. Brad, Tyson and Judih,
    Thank you for taking the time to comment!
    It seems such a contradiction – they ask me with real curiosity if it is true that I used to live (was even born!) in that “Golden Land” U.S.A, yet when I try to tell them as “a native” about things that are done differently, they don’t want to know.
    I like your idea about the clip Judih – wonder how that will effect them!
    Tyson, your example of the children in Korea helps remind me that there are, of course, hearing people who are very “closed to the world”. Remember Archie Bunker? For some reason though, this atitude of a pupil aggravates me much more than explaining 10 miliion times that a capital letter in the middle of sentence signifies a name!
    Brad – always interesting to read what you write – feel free to bring on the philosophy on your blog!

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