April 26, 2010

So, yesterday I didn’t do a blog entry.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have time, or forgot. I simply (and anyone who knows me, may find this rather strange and unbelievable) had nothing to say!!

I thought all day about what I wanted to write about. I pulled at strings in my brain, but the strings were either broken or not connected – not sure which.

So once in a while, I miss a day. Big deal, right? Perhaps once I start getting 100 hits a day, or several comments a day, then I’ll be able to write back. However, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t respond directly to comments. Those comments are your comments to my blog entry, and, just like my entry, is not up for debate by me! These are your opinions to what I have to say – good or bad.

Anyway, I was talking to my grade 7 students today. I have two classes of grade 7 students, and it just seemed natural today to talk to them about their marks.

I’m not exactly sure how many ‘terms’ there are in Junior High School in Taiwan. Hell, I’m not sure how many classes, months, holidays, tests, missed days, etc., etc. they get anyway. Nonetheless, I am required, approximately every two months, to test my students.

I, being a somewhat dedicated teacher, and wanting my students to do well, take it upon myself to not only give them a mark for the idiotic test that I have to administer, but take in all their work for the semester as well. I also keep track of attendance in class (late or no show), and participation!

You see, these kids are supposed to learning. Even though they are in JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, which for the grade 7 students, is like grade 7 for us in Canada. It is, or at least wasn’t when I attended school, not normal practice to not show up for class, or be late for no reason. These kids, I just don’t understand. Maybe I just don’t understand kids today, period! Probably better that way!

From February through April, there have been 13 scheduled classes. I know, it should be more, but there was a national holiday, then a pleasure trip, then classes cancelled for test writing, etc. So, 13 classes. The average class attendance to my 13 classes, was 11.3! Number of classes / students in class, averaged out over the 13 classes. 13 classes. That’s it! And they only came to 11?? That is, each student only attended 11 of my 13 classes. Okay, not a big deal, but if this was a class every day, then that’s about an 85% attendance record.

Now, I must admit that I wasn’t the most exemplary student when I was going to school. But, like my work life has shown, I have a nearly perfect record of class attendance. Since coming to Taiwan in 2002, I have only missed 3 days of classes! Remember that I work 7 days a week! While working with the Federal Government of Canada, I used to have 3 weeks holiday leave, and 3 weeks sick leave allotted each year. First, I was lucky if I used my 3 weeks holiday. Usually only 2 were used, and the rest was either carried over or paid out. As for sick leave, I am proud to say, that in 18 years of service, I had a record of 5 days sick leave used! 5 days in 18 YEARS!! All that other time, was not paid out, was not allotted in extra time off, was not given as ‘holiday time’. It was quite simply, given up.

I was trying to explain to these kids today, what I really thought about them. Now, before you think that I was being down on them, it took every fibre of my being not to burst out in tears! These kids are the best of the best of their grade level. I don’t care about their math results, or Chinese scores, or any other subject, other than English. These two classes are the top 50% of their grade level. Then, within their class, they are the top 50% of their class! I would expect, that if you are in that upper level of a particular subject, it means that you must, in some small way, enjoy the class.

I may not be the most well-liked educator. I may not be the most friendly. Yes, I am tough. But again, they are the best of the best! They need to know that, in my opinion. They need to know that they are in MY class, because of this fact. Not showing up for class because you don’t want to go, or showing up late for some stupid reason, indicates to me that you really aren’t interested in the course, and aren’t taking it seriously. What they don’t seem to understand, is that, because this is Junior High School, my marks DO MEAN SOMETHING! It has a direct bearing on their overall school marks!

As I’ve mentioned over and over again, I really do enjoy teaching. I enjoy seeing kids go from nothing to something! I want to see them become well-educated and learned adults! I don’t like dead wood! I can’t stand having a student in my class who doesn’t want to be there. I don’t like when parents pay ‘extra’ just to have their little child in MY class! That is not education!

Some of the students thought that I was playing ‘favourites’ with certain students. That is simply untrue. Yes, there are certain students in each class that I seem to ‘hit it off’ with. They become my target of jokes, they become good friends, but they in turn, work their asses off to consistently impress me! They do their homework, either from parental pressure, or just a desire to want to better, or perhaps they are trying to impress me! Whatever the reason, I am more than willing to treat them with the same respect they treat me!

Anyone who is a teacher in ANY language or course, will tell you the same thing. When I was in school, my favourite subjects were French, Math, and Music. Yes, I really enjoyed these classes, and I enjoyed the teachers. Yes, I did do well in these three particular subjects all year. Why? Because I gave my all for these classes. I didn’t just take the advanced Math class because I could do it. I took it because I wanted to better myself. If it were not for these subjects, perhaps my overall grades would have been lower than they were.

I don’t like to give failing marks. Even more so, I don’t like to explain to the administration of the school why I give these failing marks. I want to see these kids do well. I want to see them succeed and become incredible adults. I want to see an interest in learning because they WANT to learn.

So, the marks are now complete for this semester (or term). I now have to work on getting prepared for the next term. I wonder, if after my pep talk with them today, they understand me better. Hopefully, they do. They will see that I’m not really as tough as I seem to be. I really do want to see them do well. The class averages were about 85% this term, which is up from 83.2% from last term. I’d like to see that number jump to 90% before year end.

I believe they can do it. I just hope THEY believe they can do it!!


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