Challenges with teaching smart high school kids??

Discussion in 'General Education' started by joeschmoe, Dec 14, 2013.

  1. joeschmoe

    joeschmoe Companion

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    I teach 11-12th grade science and I try to have faith in my students when I can. On one of their end-of-the-semester projects, one of my students cheated. I don't want to go into details, but I didn't catch the act. Another student did and told me. I have zero reason to believe he would lie and I kind of even guessed who it was even before he told me her name (from past issues). Since I didn't catch her red-handed though, I am not going to make a big deal out of it. Frankly, I don't think it'll change her grade at all. The real kicker is that I only teach one period of "smart" kids. And this happened in that period.

    I talked to my department head about it and she said yeah get used to it. It's one of the reasons why she hates teaching the smarter kids. They are very conniving and creative when it comes to cheating. I mean it makes sense.

    Overall, it has me thinking and re-evaluating what I want in my career. I wanted to eventually move into teaching at my old high school in their magnet program. Behavior-wise, I know it will be a lot easier. But I'm kind of curious what the inherent challenges are coming with teaching older high school kids who are bright? Are the main problems dealing with the cheating and helicopter parents?
     
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  3. Securis

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    I would think you may also have to deal with some students who exhibit a sense of entitlement and some who lack motivation to do anything academic.
     
  4. RadiantBerg

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    Entitlement perhaps, but I wouldn't think you would see too many who lack the motivation to do anything academic. That would be more of a "low-level" class problem.
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Lots of the smart kids have their whole identity wrapped around being smart... they think that, without the "smart", they're nothing.

    Kind of a lot of pressure for a 17 year old. Sometimes when they're not confident in their "smarts" they cheat.
     
  6. 2ndTimeAround

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    I have never once caught an on-level student cheating. All of my cheaters have been advanced students and their parents. Yep, parents cheat for their kids.

    Some generalities:

    Smarter kids are far more entitled (as are their parents) than regular kids.

    Smarter kid and their parents are more concerned about getting an A than they are about being prepared for the next level of classes. They would rather their children get easy As than be challenged. Regular kids' parents are concerned about their children passing - when that is a given, they seem to really want their kids to get something out of a class.

    Smarter kids are much less likely to be patient with classmates. They want to show off that they have the answers and totally disregard wait time, even when taught about it. I've had to assign detentions for kids calling out repeatedly before they stopped.

    Some smarter kids set out to prove they are smarter than their teachers. I acknowledge the possibility at the start of every semester and warn them to tread lightly if they think they might be a snot about things ;) I love learning from my students, but I can't stand arrogance. And I tell them that.

    Smarter students seem to think that the bigger the words they use, the more impressed a teacher will be. I have had reports submitted that are a pain to read because of it. I teach science and explain that scientists are to the point and factual. Leave the flowery prose for English class.

    Of course there are lots of advantages to teaching smarter kids.

    I personally like having a mixture of on-level and advanced kids. They balance each other out nicely, even if they are in different periods.
     
  7. HorseLover

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    I don't teach high-school, but one thing I have noticed with some higher-level kids is the tendency to rush through things and thus make some "silly" mistakes and/or leave incomplete questions
     
  8. Linguist92021

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    I don't really like the smarter kids :)
    My experience is different though, with my student population, the smarter kids are those who would probably be the average kid in a 'regular' school, but with work they'd easily get a B or A. They're not very high level, advanced or exceptionally smart.
    However, the difference here is that they usually seem smarter because
    a. their parents value education and push the to do well
    b. they haven't ditched school as much as the others (not going to school at all for months, or only attending 50 % of the time)
    c. or their behavior has been somewhat better, so they haven't been sent out of classroom as much as the others

    or the combination of these.
    These kids are arrogant, they think their smarter than all others because everything comes easy to them compared to their classmates. They're arrogant to the point that they think they know everything better than the teacher. They often have an attitude, don't seem to care, etc. I have one girl who would talk down to others, make fun of them and belittle them (she has a lot of issues though and she's always in trouble, so that's not the only problem with her). I had to set quite a few of them straight.

    So give me a kid who's struggling, even hates school but at least tries a little, I take them before I take the know-it-alls. (because at my schools, most of the smart kids have been know-it-alls)
     
  9. BumbleB

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    By far, the academically gifted students are the ones who refuse to do work if (by their standards) it's not "challenging" enough. They are also very vocal about their opposition, which adds to the annoyance.
     
  10. RadiantBerg

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    I guess it's different in middle school or elementary school compared to high school. In HS, they are more concerned about the grades and happy to jump through the "easy" hoops to get the grades.
     
  11. GTB4GT

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    I don't have as much teaching experience as some or most here, but I have noticed that sometimes the "smart kids" (and it's oftentimes the females I've noticed) that don't want to tackle anything that might stretch them. in fact, they can only work and do problems (math teacher here) after they have seen it worked. Then they can repeat the process but any variation results in "you didn't show us how to do that one". I tell them math is too big to model ALL variations of any kind of problems.
    I'm not sure that some of them are really "smart" (whatever that means) or just really, really good at replication. there seems to be a big difference to me.
     
  12. joeschmoe

    joeschmoe Companion

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    That sounds like a general problem with kids these days in general. They can't think critically or out of the box. They only operate in parrot mode.
     
  13. a2z

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    They lack mathematical thinking skills. They probably lack number sense and abstract reasoning. They are probably now and have learned math procedures but never internalized what math means. So, any student with weak number sense or abstract reasoning skills can't stretch in the way you would like them too. Depending on the level of math you teach, there are many previously learned or at least "covered" skills that a person needs to think about to gage what need to be done with the more difficult math problems.

    I think all to often we expect kids to stretch when they don't have the underlying skills to stretch as far as we would like them to stretch or they have never been taught how to look for the variations. This isn't a 1 year 1 teacher fix. It takes all teachers, every year to make this happen. Unfortunately we have a weak math curriculum that either teaches by procedure OR the newest approach is to throw the kids to the wolves and have them figure it out on their own. The real solution is in the middle somewhere.

    But then, this is just my opinion.
     
  14. 2ndTimeAround

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    Another issue is the smart kid that isn't really smart. He is a bit over average but can memorize well. He gets into high school advanced classes and gets his first B or C and it all hits the fan.
     
  15. RadiantBerg

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    That's exactly right. All my CP geo kids who get As in my class think they should go to honors alg 2 the next year. I try to explain to them that it is much different--no study guides, mostly all application problems, very little direct instruction (not to mention alg 2 and geometry are totally different games). I tell them constantly that there is nothing wrong with being an excellent CP student. They don't listen to me and go to honors, they get their first C in the first marking period of honors, and then when they aren't happy with that, they transfer back to me for CP alg 2....but unfortunately that C stays on their transcript. They think my warnings apply only to other students...
     
  16. Blue

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    After I completed my September experience in high school Home Ec, I went back to my college advisor and pleaded with her to get me out of Secondary Education. I wanted to teach students who wanted to learn, and the high school students I saw did not want to learn or think or explore concepts.
     
  17. teacherbatman

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    I don't see that as a problem with kids these days.
    I see it as a problem with schools these days.

    Students have often learned from our schools/society that it's most valuable to memorize and parrot, rather than openly discuss and create.
     
  18. genermcmillan

    genermcmillan New Member

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    It is really difficult

    dear it is really difficult job to handle these age students. So make good care..:)
     
  19. Go Blue!

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    Exactly. Even lots of the kids who want good grades/care about their grades, do not want to actually learn. They just want to do whatever is necessary to get a good grade. Many are not bothered if they have actually learned anything as long as they get everything correct and will get an A.
     
  20. teacherbatman

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    So what's the real problem here, and what's the solution?

    Can we do a better job as teachers to change their motivation to learn, or are they stuck that way?

    Again, I will surmise that the problem isn't the kids... it is the system they are being forced into. I rarely think it's the teacher's "fault" either -- when kids are like this -- but the teacher can certainly help.
     
  21. a2z

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    I agree a lot of kids want good grades but don't understand that school is really about learning. School has always been about grades. It has always been about getting things right or wrong and a teacher that is happy with the results of the class on graded assignments or disappointed in the students. School has always been about getting things right or wrong. At least that is how it comes across to the students in many classes.

    Of course, this is just my opinion.
     
  22. Go Blue!

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    IA. They've been taught that the final outcome (test grade, report card) is most important and that they should strive to make sure that the final outcome is as good as possible.
     
  23. Go Blue!

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    I do accept that this is mostly a problem created by teachers/schools/parents since we place such high value on if the child is correct/gets a good grade. At times, it is almost as if teachers (SOME, NOT ALL) are not concerned with whether the child can apply that same skill somewhere else or if they have actually mastered material. As long as the students have mastered it for that test or that quarter; we just move along to the next topic we must teach and the child just moves along to the next grade/class.

    I have no solution because this is a huge issue I have in regards to waiting for "whole-class mastery" before I move to a new topic.

    Note: This is not all teachers; many try to assure that the majority master a concept/skill/topic before plowing forward.
     
  24. Peregrin5

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    I stress at the beginning of the year that even smart kids and even sometimes especially smart kids can find themselves in a fixed mindset and be afraid of challenges. Interestingly enough based on the surveys that I handed out at the beginning of the year the smarter kids were the ones mostly still opposed to having a growth mindset and were still very skeptical of it despite the research and lessons I provided.

    Their experiences have taught them otherwise (that they'll always get everything easily), but when they hit a challenge, I think many of them will crumble under the pressure of not being good at everything.

    I think we need to challenge them more and pull them a little off-kilter so they're dependent on us to teach them something new. I know it sounds mean, but if they don't experience real challenges they'll get stuck when it means the most.
     
  25. a2z

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    Or they could know at the HS level that grades are important to college acceptance and being required to do work beyond the other classmates might result in poor grades. If you want kids that were taught grades are all that matters to stretch, they need to be able to learn to stretch without negative recourse. It could also be that they are concerned about time management and how stretching for nothing in your class may lead to them being over taxed with work thus causing problems in the other areas that are required for college admission.

    I do agree there are some that don't know what to do with failure because they never failed, but that was also created by never building an environment in which they could be stretched to their limit in the name of learning for learning's sake.

    Would you stretch in your teaching career if you knew if you failed you would get half of your pay taken away? Probably not. I know in my districts kids were told that school is their workplace and grades are their pay. Not a good precedent to set if the goal is to love learning for learning's sake.
     
  26. otterpop

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    It seems to me like a lot of bright kids meet the bar but don't necessarily try to exceed it unless there are benefits to it. As a teacher, I think it is important to provide content that is at these students' levels and continues to challenge and engage them. Also, I think it is important to give some sort of credit for behaviors that you desire (discussion participation, attendance), instead of just expecting it. In my experience, in any class there is a bit of cheating by the same few students, and it is frustrating for the students who honestly do the work. If you are concerned about cheating, could you possibly shift your assignments that would be harder to cheat on, such as having students create models or give class presentations?

    I can give you a personal example. I was a great student in high school, and graduated with a high GPA. I also had a terrible attendance record. I found that I could get A's in my classes while not coming to school as often as I should. I know it drove a few of my teachers bonkers, but it didn't bother me, because I still learned the content and got good grades. You can bet that if there was a day that I needed to be there, like for a test or presentation, you couldn't have kept me away. That sounds awful to me now! But it was my mindset then.
     
  27. teacherbatman

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    I like this discussion.

    Alfie Kohn states that the problem is grading itself, that grading is at odds with a learning attitude / growth mindset. It makes sense to me. You can read more here if you'd like:

    http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/tcag.htm
     
  28. 2ndTimeAround

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    I think it is okay for a student to "get by" in some courses, depending upon his/her natural affinity for a subject. I just hate to see that be an overall attitude. I hated history and social studies in high school. We had one AP class in that discipline and I chose not to take it. I could have taken it, busted my butt and done well. But it would have prevented me from being so active in the school and working as many hours as I did at my job. Who is to say that challenging me in history class would be more enriching than volunteering with clubs and earning my own paycheck?
     
  29. GeetGeet

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    Personally I don't think this is true. This may be true of wealthy students, not smarter ones.
     
  30. teacherbatman

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    I don't think it sounds awful. You acted logically. I did something similar. Ask yourself why a student would go to class every day and get an A, if they could go to class only some days and get an A? Or even a B? Can you blame them?

    Once again, students are taught by "grades" that it's not about doing your best, it's about meeting a certain standard then shutting down to conserve your energy. Does this remind you of anything else? (Hint: the workplace ;))
     
  31. TeacherGroupie

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    It's a mistake to assume that the kid who uses big words does so simply to show off. Some words are just incredibly cool to use. (My children and I used "absquatulate" - a nonce word I learned in a night of word games several decades ago that means 'to cease from squatting in one place and to go somewhere else - as a code word when it was time to leave a place.) It's also a mistake to assume that every kid who just can't not blurt out the answer does so in order to show up everyone else: sometimes it's that the answer as answer makes a connection about the world that's just too nifty not to share.
     
  32. a2z

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    I agree with what you are saying TeacherGroupie.


    Generalizing all students that behave in a certain manner as doing so on purpose is no different than all teachers being generalized by behaviors.
     
  33. GTB4GT

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    apropos of probably nothing else germaine to this thread, but one day, in the midst of a pretty chaotic science lesson with my lowest level classroom, I stopped the class and just talked to them about entropy (the idea that things or systems or groups naturally tend towards chaos). For whatever reason, that stuck with them and they love that word. Now I can casually mention to them that I am starting to see the first signs of entropy in the class and they straighten out. or, when doing their classroom work, I put one of them in charge of "entropy control". I know this sounds a bit silly but is an another example of a "big word" (or perhaps, a 'big concept") that resonated with this particular group of students.
     
  34. Go Blue!

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    On the flip side, at my school, the kids who are in the Honors and AP classes are much better behaved than their peers. They may be chatty and lazy/lack motivation at times, but they are not behavior problems. We only have 3 or 4 AP/Honors classes at my school, but teachers love teaching them because the classes are small with few problems.
     
  35. orangetea

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    I previously taught in a school in a high socioeconomic area, and I now teach in a lower-income area. I wouldn't call either group of students smarter than the other, but I will say that for me, it was much easier to teach in the high socioeconomic area. This was mainly because I didn't have to worry about kids passing standardized tests, because I knew that even without me, most of my students would pass no matter what. (mainly because of the level that my students come to me at) I didn't notice that cheating was more prevalent in either setting. When I compared the CP classes to the Honors classes in my old school, I noticed that the honors classes had almost no behavior issues. Last year, I took over the AP Calc BC class for two weeks because of an emergency, and there were absolutely no behavior problems.
     
  36. Go Blue!

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    I think this is a good point some people don't want to acknowledge. When you teach at a school where students come to you at or above grade-level and are academically prepared, this makes ALOT of other things easier for those teachers - things those teachers (may) take for granted.

    Also, I strongly believe that when you don't have to deal with constant behavior problems, it really makes all the difference. When you're dealing with kids that are low/grade-levels behind AND they won't behave, its hard to make any significant progress. I would prefer to teach really, really low but well-behaved students (like my 6th graders last year) than kids who are slightly below or at grade-level but are terrors (like my 7th graders last year).
     

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