Making classes more fun and/or popular

Discussion in 'High School' started by a teacher, Oct 6, 2014.

  1. a teacher

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    Oct 6, 2014

    I was wondering what others make of this.

    I teach elective classes, which means my classes have to attract enough students at sign up time to run the following year or I lose them. The culture at my school is really weak academically. Teachers grade real easy, very little homework is assigned and students are allowed to waste a lot of time. Recently a student who really enjoys a class they take with me told me that when they were thinking about signing up, other kids were telling them they should avoid my classes for reasons so invalid/stupid it was hard for me to believe. Generally they were misconceptions of rules in my class, which are totally reasonable and which these former students should have clearly understood. Instead they talked about them in inaccurate ways that made me seem unreasonable. I have developed a reputation for being "strict" because, for example, I don't let kids use their cell phones in class, or I don't accept assignments a week late!

    How do you all feel about being in a school culture where you're looked upon as the bad teacher because you challenge students and have standards?
     
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  3. a teacher

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    Can someone please help by providing responses?
     
  4. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    It's really hard to fight school culture battles on your own. Our department is apparently the only one that requires students to cover their textbooks, and I have a few students that flat-out won't do it, despite it being entered as an assignment. I don't think you should lower your expectations because of this, though. Instead, see if there is another way you can hook them into your subject area and make them want to be in your class. What about your subject is fun? What projects can you do to make things more enticing? In my French classes, students do ongoing culture projects that culminate in a fun day of sharing food, music, videos, etc. I can hold students to high expectations but they still sign up for the classes since they know they'll get to do something fun and different.

    In the end, though, if the overall school culture is one of low expectations, expect to fight an uphill battle. Not that it's not worth sticking to your guns, though!
     
  5. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    What kind of elective classes are they?
     
  6. UCLACareerChngr

    UCLACareerChngr Comrade

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    I have battled the balance of strict and nice...I also teach elective classes so I need to be "liked" in order to draw enough students to maintain my programs. But, I have learned over the years that there's a difference between being "nice" and being respected. If you made your class "fun" by letting the students get away with things I think you would ultimately be unhappy, because you know deep down that's not how you want to do it.

    Of course there are always students that want to take the easy road, but do you really want a whole class stuffed with those students? I would rather have students who know what they are getting into and come into the class with their eyes open.

    That being said, I do think there are ways that you can maintain rigor and still make the class fun. I am fairly strict (don't accept late work, give tests, etc) but have made strides to make the class more fun (I have them do videos and skits for an accounting class, they do a lot of group work, they make posters, etc), but I have had many occasions over the years where students come back from college and say that my class really helped get them ready for classes they took in college.

    I think it's a delicate balance but good luck in keeping enrollment in your classes.
     
  7. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I teach in alternative ed (3rd year, counting my LTS) and I feel that I'm always holding the students to higher standards than most of the other teachers. My principals always loved it, and told me to keep doing it, the resistance from the students will fade away and grow into appreciation (this has become true). However, I always felt that it was harder, because the other teachers tend to take it easy.
    I teach English, but I also teach Geography as elective. I did realize, that I need to take that one class easier, it's an elective, might as well make it a bit more fund, and not make it so rigorous.
    It works out better that way, we watched more videos, color coded and studied maps, etc, but we also read, took notes, discussed and took high level tests.
    I wouldn't do it with my English classes, no matter what.

    So because of your situation, and because you teach electives, you might want to consider changing some of the approach to get more of a buy in from the students, especially because they could discontinue your classes.

    What do you teach?
     
  8. a teacher

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    I teach art classes of various kinds, both traditional and digital.
     
  9. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    You can definitely make art more fun. Make it relevant to them, take them outside, do interesting projects, things they haven't done before, etc.
     
  10. a teacher

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    I guess the problem for me is that I equate the word "fun" with catering to the whims of teenagers, as opposed to rigorous education. Learning can be fun, but what teenager is going to prefer writing and academic work to doing projects? But to make the art classes rigorous there needs to be writing. I like to use a lot of art history, because that's something I really enjoy. However, it's probably hard for kids to relate to art history.
     
  11. a teacher

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    Oct 8, 2014

    What do you all think?
     
  12. a teacher

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    Oct 9, 2014

    To get more students interested in my classes, I need to be more popular, which means my classes have to be more fun. What are some specific steps I can take? I am not naturally peppy and crazy about dealing with kids. I have adapted to teaching kids, as opposed to being a natural (i.e. chirpy, outgoing, extroverted, bundle of energy, etc.).
     
  13. a teacher

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    Oct 13, 2014

    Can anyone help?
     
  14. TeacherGroupie

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    How do you feel about your students? How engaged are you by the subject(s) your electives cover?
     
  15. a teacher

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    I am passionate about my subject matter. That's why I'm teaching, not because I particularly care about working with kids. I guess the reason some teachers have an edge is because they generally enjoy other people's kids. Most people I'm sure are indifferent, and if they get into teaching, they have to see if they can handle kids.
     
  16. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I might argue that if the kids know that you don't particularly care about working with them, they might not be super enthusiastic about your class.
     
  17. Ms.Blank

    Ms.Blank Companion

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    Yeah...this entire statement rings odd with me. I agree with Caesar; if you don't enjoy the kids, it's more than likely carrying into how you conduct the class...whether you realize it or not. :sorry: I personally don't feel that the love for the subject matter is enough...you must also enjoy teaching people (especially the age group you're working with!). It sounds to me like you're frustrated that the kids don't appreciate your subject like you do. Art can be a tricky subject; sometimes it takes age and experience to fully appreciate it. Have you looked into perhaps teaching at the college level? It's difficult to crack into, but if you've got a Masters, you could potentially land a community college gig.
     
  18. jojo808

    jojo808 Comrade

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    "But to make the art classes rigorous there needs to be writing" Why?
    I disagree with this.

    I think you can make art rigorous by making students think about things in a different way. Make them keep a sketchbook, make them think about intent, make them reflect (okay-this is writing). You can have them discuss, critique--these are interesting (and rigorous) ways for students to learn.

    Including art history is important but there are boring ways to teach art history and interesting ways.
     
  19. a teacher

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    I don't want to get too far off topic, but I'm honestly wondering who would choose to teach high school if they could choose college? Are there actually teachers like that? I've always assumed teaching kids (unless maybe Elementary school) was a compromise.
     
  20. Ms.Blank

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    ...yes. Yes, there are actually teachers like that. Most of them, actually. :dizzy:
     
  21. a teacher

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    Most of them? Are you quite sure?
     
  22. TeacherGroupie

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    Try asking your colleagues, a teacher - unless you've already decided that anyone whose sights are set so low deserves no more of your esteem than do your students.
     
  23. a teacher

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    Ouch! Touchy.
    I don't know how many of them would be honest.
     
  24. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    I think people are coming off as touchy because whether you realize it or not, it seems as though you hold teens and people who enjoy teaching teens in low esteem.

    I LOVE teaching teens, and even though I'm academically qualified to do so, I have ZERO desire to teach college. This is true for the vast majority of teachers I've worked with over the last 2 decades. Teaching teens isn't just about sitting on high and imparting my knowledge of literature and grammar to them... it's about igniting a passion for learning, connecting their lives to the lives of others, and getting them to see that there is a world bigger than their own. It's about reaching that one child who feels worthless and showing them that they have value and worth, that they can contribute something more to the world than they've ever realized. It's about supporting them. It's about guiding them. It's about reaching them where they are, without judgment, and helping them discover who they are. Can you do that at the college level? Maybe. Probably, but I enjoy working with the masses, even the ones who will never step foot on a college campus.
     
  25. MissCeliaB

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    I chose to teach high school rather than college. In the current state of higher education, many of my colleagues are making that same choice.

    As to your original question, I used to teach a film elective, which was cut because of budget concerns (not because of lack of interest.) It was quite rigorous, and offered for dual credit with a local university. It was also fun! My students did some writing, for sure. But, mostly they discussed, created, argued, analyzed, modeled, and taught each other. Rigorous does not mean boring! I even made the less interesting topics easier to digest. When we did the science of film, we made sun prints, experimented with focal length of lenses, made flip books, zooetropes, etc. When we learned film history, we made films in the styles of some of the early great masters, and replicated some of their special effects. I had my students excited about watching a three-hour silent German expressionist movie because I tied it to Beyonce and the Illuminati! They learned so much from that unit!

    You seem to be expecting high school students to be miniature college students, and file into nice rows and take notes quietly. That's just not how high school works.

    My discipline in my class is quite good. There are some things I am a bit more lax on: I allow hats in my classroom, I allow gum, I allow food during some periods, etc. But, my kids respect me, know that I have high academic standards, and mostly live up to them.
     
  26. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    I thought teaching art was all about letting students create, using different medias or emulating great artists. I would think that would make the classes fun and interesting?
     
  27. a teacher

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    Thanks for the awesome responses. I DO NOT hold high school teachers and teenagers in low esteem. That's completely ridiculous and I said nothing of the sort. I genuinely wanted to know why someone would teach kids rather than adults. I received one answer and I'm anxious to hear more! :)

    Regarding inspiring kids, etc. that seems to me like a parents job. That is, if you have kids you can be doing that. But why would one prefer that to teaching college, when students are taking the class because they actually are interested in the subject and can bring enthusiasm to it? Why would you want to push and motivate a lazy kid who feels worthless to try to understand art history, or whatever, when you could be teaching a room full of motivated and more articulate people?

    And I don't expect high school kids to fall in line. That's also something you are imagining. Please read what I am saying, not what you are thinking.

    I also have to say that while as teachers we can always claim we have an important social purpose (surely ours is one of the most important) I think that on a personal level we use that to give value to what we do. This makes sense since we're undervalued in this society and we put up with a lot of crap from the public. But I think many of us come to the job because we have a passion for our discipline. After that you have to factor in job security, stability, benefits, vacation time etc. I think many teachers would be afraid to admit this openly.
     
  28. a teacher

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    Wow, this sounds exciting! I would love to see your curriculum. Is it posted somewhere?
     
  29. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I get the impression that you think high school students = lazy, unmotivated and college students = excited, highly motivated. While I appreciate that your impression is likely based on your own personal experiences, I would like to point out that my experience is different. Most of my students are enthusiastic about my subject, even though it is exceedingly challenging and difficult. They are in high school.

    I have also taught college. My students were enthusiastic there, too. Have you ever taught college?

    Perhaps it is less about the age of the student and more about the classroom environment and climate created by the teacher.
     
  30. MissCeliaB

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    Sadly, no. I'm in the process of publishing it all on TPT, but I'm not nearly to a stage of having anything organized enough to send out. It took years to gather all of my hand-outs, presentations, projects, etc. It was all on my class website, but since the course is no longer offered, it was all deleted. Hopefully I'll get it all organized soon.
     
  31. TeacherGroupie

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    You're not helping your case with this remark, a teacher: one can't help concluding that you assume you know what your colleagues will think AND that they will lie. I devoutly hope you meant something different.

    If you're that reluctant to ask the people you work with, try looking through the forums here on A to Z. You'll find honesty, all right, and if you're looking for complaints you'll certainly find them - but you'll also find teachers at all levels from pre-K up who are in the business as much for WHO they teach as for WHAT they teach. (And sometimes more. The elementary ed teacher who takes a third-grade job because he adores teaching cursive is doomed to disappointment.)

    For my own part, I've taught and tutored ages from primary grade to over 80. Some of my students have come to me voluntarily and with enthusiasm, and it was glorious fun to get them farther. Retirees and sixth graders are in that group. A great many more of them - adults - have come to me because they had to; they tended to arrive hating at least part of what they needed to work on with me, but I take pride in the ones who leave me having come to an accommodation with math or science or history or literature or essay writing or test taking or art, let alone the ones who kind of glow as they tell me they now love the subject they used to hate. What makes the difference? Usually it's that I show them how to leverage the strengths they already have; this requires, of course, that I believe they have strengths that can be leveraged.
     
  32. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    I agree. The only age I've never worked with, from newborn to adult ed, is 6th graders. I have found things to love about all of my students. I love teaching high school, because I love the energy! I love the potential! I love the creativity! It's so inspiring to work with these young people who are really just becoming people and learning how the world works, finding out who they are, etc. They are all so unique, and change so much during the school year, and from year to year.
     
  33. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I adore teaching teens. I vastly prefer them to adults. With teens, I feel hopeful. I am educating them for the future. I'm exposing them to new ideas and teaching them to be a productive citizen. We read current events. They learned about ISIS for the first time last week. I consider that important. We learn about genocides, governments, equality, racism, prejudice, and so many other important topics. I get to help them find their "spark" like some of my teachers (and parents!) helped me find mine. And we get to do all that through reading, writing, and discussing! Teenagers are such a great age. They're just starting to find their voices and the issues they care about. I get to foster that and encourage it. I couldn't imagine doing anything else.
     
  34. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    I am qualified to teach college and have very much chosen high school. In fact, when I started teaching high school, I wanted to teach upperclassmen. I thought I would want as close to that "college environment" as possible- studious, ready to conquer the world.

    Instead, I found that I ADORE working with freshmen. Those half babies/half adults that yes, bounce off the walls and don't always see the value in learning about things that happened 400 years ago. But I do think I inspire at least a few of them and I do think that matters- I'm not just puffing myself up by saying that. Last year, I had a student who moaned and groaned about the fact that they had to write research papers in history class. And yet, at the end of the year, that same student wrote me a letter, thanking me for making her do that because no one had ever taught her how to write a full research paper. That matters.
     
  35. a teacher

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    It's not good to generalize of course, but if you are teaching people who want to be in a class, it should be more fun to teach the class. If you're having to deal with people who don't want to be there, you have an obstacle to overcome. I have not taught college full-time so granted I am making some assumptions, but they are based on the fact that a) students have chosen the class so they come in motivated b) they are paying for the class so they are motivated and/or c) they function at a higher intellectual level and therefore can appreciate quality discussion and critical thinking.

    My experience with high school students is that many of them have to be convinced through various approaches to teaching that the subject matter is worth their learning it. They aren't mature enough to appreciate the value of knowledge and experience. They want to have fun and they want the easiest road possible. These are facts which are hard to dispute. Consequently as teachers we have to lower ourselves to their level, rather than having adults who are invested in learning and looking for a challenge, or who can relate more to the material because of maturity and experience.

    It's also a simple fact that most teachers won't be honest about why they are in teaching. They will be honest only if they really know the person they are sharing their feelings with. Most teachers will use the "I am saving our youth and giving them a sense of worth" argument for why they are teaching. I think the truth is much more selfish. It must be said that this goes for any profession.
     
  36. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    My reasons for teaching are EXACTLY what I posted.

    As for kids liking college, I hated some of my courses related to my major. I wanted to be literally anywhere else. I loved reading, but I didn't love the books assigned to us. How do you think I learned to love reading? Someone had to teach me! I'm glad I had great teachers (again, including my parents).

    My students consistently tell me they love me and my classes. I am one of the more rigorous teachers in our building. But I have fun with them. I laugh with them. I joke with them. I build a great rapport so when we do the harder things, they understand why. Contrary to popular belief, most students don't just want the easy way out. Are there some? Sure. But I teach 10th graders and 12th graders of all levels. The majority prefer to learn.

    My two favorite teachers in high school were very demanding. But we also had fun. I remember when my French teacher's phone went off in class and she let us answer it as long as we stuck to speaking French. It was so much fun!
     
  37. TeacherGroupie

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    The least motivated students I ever had were college students, actually.

    Deciding that people cannot be telling the truth when they fail to confirm the biases you already hold is not very responsible thinking.
     
  38. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    You sound like you should really be trying to get a job at a college, because you don't seem to have the passion dealing with teens.
     
  39. tcfullersoccer

    tcfullersoccer Rookie

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    Please, please, please do NOT focus much, if any, attention in art class on writing about art! Let them explore ART! With Common Core, they are hearing all the time in their core subjects about having to write all the time. Hell, they're supposed to write in MATH!

    My daughter loves music and singing. Her music teacher is sucking the joy out of music class by making them do posters and write about music.

    If my son or daughter was looking to choose an elective and your syllabus said that you made them write a lot about art history, I'd have them signed up for the first automotive repair or metal shop class they could find available.

    (Oh...and if you don't like kids all that much, it doesn't matter WHAT you do in your classroom, you're going to fail, the kids will fail and you'll be basically stealing taxpayer money. I hope you find your calling some day. Good luck!)
     
  40. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Common core requires all teachers to cover literacy standards FYI.
     
  41. TeacherGroupie

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    In addition to the Common Core requirements, one of the classic uses of writing is inquiry - which includes figuring out what it is that one thinks. If a high school student takes art history but comes out unable to use the taught terminology to write an informed analysis of an artwork or a grade-appropriate characterization of an art movement, either the student has failed or the teacher has.
     

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