Saturday, February 08, 2014

Letter from a teacher: Being positive in the classroom!

I would like to share this other letter I read in the book 'Teaching Outside the Box' by Lou Anne Johnson. The awesome and inspiring book was given to me by a kind friend during my journey in an education NGO in Malaysia. The letter came from a new teacher who decided to start her teaching class positively. What I like was her being optimistic of her students. Let's hope we (new teachers) can take her as a good example to start with.

Here it goes.

This is the end of my third week of teaching. I was given 125 'remedial' students. The other teachers told me they wouldn't show up to class. If they did, they would either sleep or disrupt the class; they wouldn't do homework and they didn't care if they passed or failed and I'd have to throw most of them out at some point or another.

I took a lot of your positive advice to heart. I went in on day one and told them all that I could guarantee they would have the best year in school they had ever had. I asked if that interested any of them, and they all admitted it did. I told them I only asked for three things, and I would do the rest. They had to show up every day; they had to come in with the attitude that they could and would learn something; and they had to try. I told them the story of Edison taking ten thousand tries to invent a light bulb and told them that I was only asking that they try three or four times. I asked how many had been told they were stupid or couldn't do math? Every hand went up. I told them it wasn't true; they just hadn't been taught math in a way they could understand it. I told them there were two words I would not tolerate in my class - "I can't" - because they all could and there wasn't stupid one in the bunch.

Three weeks later, my students show up on time. The few who skipped in the beginning don't skip anymore, and no one skips on Friday, because it's cookie day! They do logic problems every day that require them to think, and now they ask for more. They do their homework; and if they get a low grade, they ask to fix it and turn it back in. I've told them I only care that they learn it and that if they're willing to do their homework or tests again, I am certainly willing to grade them again. I cut them some slack in the discipline department, but when I speak they stop and listen; and when I take someone outside and ask them to settle down, they do. I'm having a blast, and so are my students. Students tell me it's the first time a math teacher actually cared about them and made them feel like they could succeed. Students that have on-the-job training in the afternoon come and hang out in math instead of leaving - some show up three periods a day - and participate in each class.

I can't thank you enough. If I had listened to those other teachers and not you, I would be having a miserable year. But it's more rewarding than I could have imagined!

I know you are busy finishing up your book, but thought you would like to know how much fun I'm having!

Laura Hauser

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