Four students dropped one of my classes today. Four kids. We’ve met three times, and in that time these four have decided two things – that my class is not what they were expecting and that it’s too hard.
Here’s the thing; on the first count, I’m sure they’re right. The person who ran this class before me didn’t actually TEACH the subject at all. In fact, when I spoke to the remaining students this afternoon about my concern for the loss of so many kids at once, one of them actually said that “Mrs. Smith let us free write for the whole semester. It was essentially journal time.“ Of this, I have no doubt. I wanted desperately to ask this girl if she actually LEARNED anything in Mrs. Smith’s class, but I couldn’t figure a way to ask that with anything approaching a professional tone, so I let it drop. Besides, I know the answer to that is “no” simply by how the students who took Mrs. Smith’s class last year are responding to the lessons I’m giving in my class now; they have no foundational knowledge about the subject in question, so it’s pretty clear that Mrs. Smith’s class was, in terms of the students’ academic progress, a total waste of time.
The defecting students’ second complaint is just plain aggravating to me, though, because I know damned well it has NOTHING to do with me. They’re frustrated because I’m expecting them to think, and they don’t like it. They’re resisting the idea that this subject entails some real work – that there’s analysis to be done and rules to learn and that they can’t just make stuff up or say “I like it, it’s good” and expect to learn anything – and they’re mad about it. I’m getting this in all of my classes; in fact, just today, I had this exchange with one of my students:
Me: Okay, everyone, I need you to get this permission slip signed and bring it back to me by next class.
Kid: Mrs. Chili, is it okay if I DON’T get it signed? I’ve seen this movie before and I hated it.
You’re KIDDING me, right?! No, really – you’re kidding? Please tell me you’re kidding. She wasn’t kidding; she’s decided that she knows better than I what’s going on in our class, and she’s deciding what she should and shouldn’t be asked to do.
So. Not. Cool.
Just the other day, Mamacita posted an entry about a student who resisted the class discussion because it challenged her notion of what she was in school to do. It was perfectly timed, this post, because it helped me to remember that I’m not the only one dealing with recalcitrant, resistant, downright belligerent students who don’t want to have their little brains taxed. Today, I’ve had about all of that I can take.