Don’t write off your bad student

troubled student

We all have at least one trouble kid. Secretly, we might wish him out of the class (“maybe his family will move…”). Privately, we might enjoy sending him to the principal’s office (“now I’ll be able to teach!”).

But while the kid disrupts others’ learning, do we take the time to consider the needs of this bad boy/girl? Do we speak harshly to this person?

Maybe the reason why he/she is a class clown is because he/she is hurting. Maybe there’s no love at home. Or maybe abuse.

Are we so insensitive as to pile more abuse on top of the other abuse?

Yeah, I know. We get frustrated with the one student who is blocking the education of the many. We would rather just wash our hands of him/her and forget it.

But teachers do much more than just prepare students for standardized tests. And teachers need to focus much more than just helping your school to score higher on average so as to get more state money, or get that pay raise by scoring highly on average. We have to think about helping kids to NOT become criminals. We have to think about helping kids discover that they ARE valuable and that they DO have talents and that they CAN make an honest living performing a valuable function. You may not get a pay raise, but you are making a difference in what truly matters.


The back story

rebellious student

The student who is rebellious, distant, not engaged… The student who fools around, doesn’t care, distracts others… The student who’s always on his phone and never brings a pen and paper… That student has a back story of pain.

Now we can justify ourselves for cracking down on him, bemoaning him, wishing he weren’t there because he ruins the rest.

Or we can try to find out the background. Did his parents just divorce? Was he bullied last year? Did he get beaten up?

If you can help kids quantify and deal with pain, you can give them tools to succeed in life. Teachers are more than relaters of information or preparers for standardized tests. Teachers are helpers of humans.

Never underestimate the value of your work. Your troubled kids may not score highest on the standardized test. But if you help them to not be a drug addict, you have not failed the system. You are a success and should feel proud of yourself.

His behavior comes from his hurt, not any malice towards you.

Blessings and difficulties of running private schools

non-prophetPrivate schools don’t have to follow the politician’s whim. They don’t have to constantly “reform” education. They don’t have to crowd their rooms and pass through dropouts.

But private schools struggle financially. They don’t have public funds. They often operate on very small properties and pay their teachers a miserable wage. Despite these limitations, they accomplish great things.

What are blessings and difficulties you have found with non-profit schools?

Keep trying: Netherlands and education

Huntelaar celebrates after his penalty kick gave Netherlands a late win.

Huntelaar celebrates after his penalty kick gave Netherlands a late win.

After Giovanni Dos Santos second-half goal, perennial underachievers Mexico could taste victory against the Netherlands June 29. It tasted like tacos with chile.

After nearly failing to qualify for World Cup, Mexico burst onto the field to bust expectations. They played some inspired soccer: quick combinations, sharp passing, glorious goals. Mexico had never gotten out of the Group of 16. And here they were one goal up against powerful Netherlands.

But Netherlands didn’t have a panic attack. No, Netherlands calmly just continued its attack.

With two minutes to the end of the game, Wesley Sneijder was fed a header from a corner kicked and smashed the ball into the near post. It was impossible for superstar goalie Guillermo Ochoa to stop. Mexico’s heart began to sink. Holland’s began to rise.

Then in extra time, Arjen Robben — probably the best player at this tournament — after troubling Mexico’s defense the entire 90 minutes, penetrated the area with some fancy and fast footwork. Rafael Marquez, who should have no better, fell for the bait. Attempting to defend too aggressively, he stomped down on Robben’s foot. The contact was minimal. Robben flopped theatrically. But there was contact. So the ref awarded a penalty kick.

A penalty kick is virtually impossible for the kicker to miss. Logically, Klaas Jan Huntelaar converted with only seconds to overtime. There would be overtime.

How does this relate to education? Simple, Netherland’s had an attitude we as teachers should have. They patiently pursued success unflaggingly through different avenues. They didn’t look for someone to blame. They believed in themselves.

Finding a culprit can be pointless, so is justifying our lack of success. At any moment, you can spark the inspiration of your students, but you must be inspired yourself at all times. The kids may engage, as long as you’re engaging. The Netherlands comeback was inspired by top professionals. Be a top professional and keep believing in those kids. Believe they can learn, they can overturn a deficit, they can become a success. Feed them a constant diet of optimism and enthusiasm.

Education reform maybe has its place. But attitude reform is the key.

Pay attention to the subplot


Klinsmann with his former assistant and friend, Low.

On the surface, USA’s pass to World Cup knockout stage leaves people scratching their heads. We lost, but we won?

On the surface, the Germans dominated, as expected. And the United States did a decent job defending and mounted a few attacks. They managed the result, which with low-scoring loss combined with a favorable Portugal-Ghana scoreline, helped them to the next round.

But if you dig deeper, there are fascinating subplots.

Take the U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann. He’s German, marshaling forces against his native country. Would he throw the game for Sacred Mother Country? He’s basked in the sun of Southern California since 1990, but does German blood course through his veins?

Or even more thought-provoking is the question of rivalry. The current German coach, Joachim Low, was his former assistant. Actually, the previous friendship and collaboration made the current contest more intense. Low has criticized his former boss’s tactical ability. Klinsmann declared before the faceoff: “We want to go for gold!”

The subplot if the major story. What happens on the surface is just a product of what happens below the surface.

When your students enter your class, it’s the hell at home that’s dooming them. If you can give your student the tools to calm the inner storm, you can help him pass your class.

Pay attention to subtle signals of inner turmoil. Who is being bullied in your class? Who is socially outcast? Who is so insecure that she flaunts and I-don’t-care attitude?

Dig deep because today’s teaching assumes a chaotic and distracted mind. There’s no more Leave-it-to-Beaver households in America, and as a result the kids are venting their frustrations at school.

In the end, the U.S. lost to superior fire power, not coaching prowess. The players made the difference. But they lived to see another day in World Cup play.

In the end, the student whose heart you touch will be transformed in his/her educational success.

Appalling lack of interest

um yeahThere are these Chinese students who are coming to the U.S. and enrolling in a private school. They are brilliant kids, top in their nation. They are paying high dollar to learn English by immersion. But the private school won’t cut them any slack. The teachers won’t give them a grace period, comprehend their on a learning curve, or even give them any extra help. Nope, just throw them into the shark tank and see if they can survive.

What idiots! Never mind that the Chinese kids are saving your school from going bankrupt. The criminal unhelpfulness displays a teaching system that is completely corrosive.

We are teacher! We are supposed to help students! Whatever level they come, we should help them attain higher levels, as high as they can go! We cannot just mechanically dictate according to the syllabus and be completely out of touch of the realities of our students. Such unconcernedness reveals a teaching system that has drifted from its moorings. Such teachers have no principles.

Send me your struggling students! I will teach them. Because this is more than just a paycheck. This is human lives being changed forever. If you don’t understand that, find a new job.

If you don’t care anymore, please do us all a favor and quit.