Two people commented on my last post, about how working with Bernice got me started on marking for confidence.
First, Evelyn said that she thought many teachers would have seen Bernice as “resistant or difficult or careless or smartass.” I think most of those judgements are accurate.
She was resistant–she did not want me to “go over” her work with her; she wanted to keep herself out of a situation she had doubtless been in many times before, where a teacher pointed out where she had gone wrong and expected her to fix her errors. The teachers may sometimes have been encouraging, sometimes sarcastic, or bored, or exasperated, but always Bernice would have been in the wrong. I think most students would be resistant to our teaching if the resistance had not been worn out of them.
She was difficult, or at least she made the situation difficult for me. Her confidence and her resistance made me think that my usual way of handling the situation might be wrong. I found it difficult to be suddenly presented with a need to change my teaching strategy, and pressured into doing it on the spot.
And she was a bit of a smartass. I like that in a person.
Many students in adult literacy or adult basic education are resistant and difficult, and will be a little smartass if they feel safe. It’s part of the package. They want what they think we’re offering–a path to a better job, a better life. But they don’t want to go back to those feelings they had in school before, when they were measured and found wanting.
barbara said, “For me the core question is: what am I getting out of the situation for myself? … Sometimes when I am down or crabby what is in it for me is to make someone wrong/show me as right.”
I recognize that scenario, although I think it is pretty brave of barbara to point it out in broad daylight on the internet. She goes on to say, “When I give in to that I always feel crummy after, like eating so much sugar it makes me sick.” I recognize that sick feeling too.
So, trying to avoid that sick feeling, what’s in it for me? What makes me love teaching? What do I get out of it?
Above all, I think, a puzzle to solve. A class comes in, and the goal is that they should learn the skills and content laid out for the course at hand. What can I do to create the conditions for that to happen? A different puzzle with every class, with every student, and a chance to bring into play things I’ve learned since yesterday, or last month, or last year.
What’s in it for you? What makes you love teaching?