Lack of Enthusiasm

cheder.jpgI am back at school, after two weeks of holidays, cleaning and kashering the house. I dreaded the return and have’nt been disappointed.

The kids I teach this year aren’t too disruptive, with one notable exception (a class of 33 monstrous creatures labelled as students by our administration). However when it comes to teaching, and not socializing, classes that are ok are not enough. I get paid to teach those kids, to instill something in their minds, not to supervize aimless teenagers. However this is what it has felt like since I got back.

One group of seniors (who by the way have an English oral in less than a month) had to choose between two pictures and prepare an oral presentation. In spite of the holidays, only two students in this small group of 7 had bothered to produce something.

In another class of seniors, students for whom English is supposed to be a major subject, I had asked all students to bring their textbooks to revise a few grammar points. Disappointingly less than half the group had remembered so I ended up excluding those who couldn’t work. It may look a bit rash but there is no point in pretending.

Lastly, in the most awful class, I had to nag and threaten for about 15 minutes before they agreed to keep quiet so that the lesson could really start. Obviously the rare sentences produced by a few reluctant students were disappointing and very different from what I had expected and counted on.

What can I do? In the long run it gets really annoying to see them arrive at the beginning of a lesson, sit down, get their books out if they havent forgotten to bring them, knowing that very few will have bothered to learn their lessons or do their homework. After some months, this is really getting on my nerves. It is also depressing and worrying. I used to love teaching and was eager to go back after the holidays. Now I feel drawn as a teacher and perplexed as an individual. What’s more a lot of my colleagues, both younger and older than me, share my feelings and concern. Where has the passion for learning gone? The enthusiasm for ideas, poems, books and movies? Why do they seem so passive even when we tackle topical issues or when they are meant to be the active producers of posters, articles, book covers, radio shows and so on?

What makes everything even harder just now is that most teachers here feel let down by the current government. Numerous teachers retire and are not replaced. We are asked to teach extra hours (this is cheaper than creating new teaching jobs) yet lack the backing and support we need. Doesn’t anybody realize we are talking about the future generations?

3 thoughts on “Lack of Enthusiasm

  1. Oh, you are totally voicing my feelings. The last month of the year is usually the hardest. So much work left to do, so many exams and papers to grade, kids that are already in the holiday mode, and don’t realize that they need to work in order to pass. It’s draining. Pesach did give me a lot of new energy though, and I hope the omer will pull me through those last weeks. I find the 48 steps of Aish really inspiring. Enjoy the last days of yomtov!

  2. I’ve been out of the teaching world for a number of years, but still think about teaching all the time. I have talked to many teachers here in Israel (where I live) who say that any serious teaching has to happen before Purim, because after that, with all the holidays and bagruyot, the kids rarely take school seriously. If I were to go back to teaching here, I would hit the ground running in September and work the students hard in the fall and winter, and reserve the spring for review and less serious stuff. I would also consider when the best time of year is to have group vs individual projects (i.e. when students are more engaged vs. less engaged).

    It’s ironic that one can go into teaching out of love for the subject and the desire to share it with young, eager minds, only to discover that those young minds are heavily preoccupied with so many other things. This doesn’t mean that a special group of really dedicated students never comes your way as a teacher, but sadly, that’s rarely the norm. I remember as a student really flagging in my energy at the end of the year. What did I need at the time to perk me up? A lighthearted assignment? Something strange or unusual to grab my attention and pull me back into the subject again? An assignment that called on me to use the skills I’d been taught but in a way that also drew out my own interests as a person? I don’t know what the answer is, and I’ve not always been the most perceptive teacher. But my years away from teaching (spent child-bearing and -rearing) have made me resolved to return to teaching someday as a more perceptive and compassionate teacher.

    I’m sorry you’ve hit an apathetic period with your students. I hope you find a way to rally and finish off the year without feeling too burned out!

    Thanks for all the new recipes! I made the fondant chocolate cake with your amended volume measures and it was delicious. Even my husband, who doesn’t care for nuts, enjoyed the cake.

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