Feelin’ a little discouraged

As I have written in the past, I am involved teaching a fifth-grade religion class at our church. We are Catholic, so this class is for the kids who do not attend the parish’s parochial school. Most Protestant churches would call it “Sunday School.” In the Catholic Church, it’s called CCD.

This is my eighth year teaching 5th grade, and I have noticed that nearly every year, we hit a low point around February. I don’t know whether it is the spot in the curriculum, the attitude of the kids or the way I teach. However, it seems that nearly every year around this time I wonder, “Why am I doing this?”

Classroom management is an issue for me. Part of the problem is I wear hearing aids, so keeping track of multiple voices is very difficult. I have a co-teacher who is essentially my “enforcer.” She was not able to attend this week, so Mrs. Poolman came along to help. At one point she asked me, “You don’t get paid for this, right?” When I pointed out that she knew this was a volunteer job, she replied, “I knew you were a little crazy, but not this much.” Thanks for the support, Mrs. P!

I think there are several issues involved. The biggest is the class meets for an hour on Wednesday evenings. The students have already been in school all day, and this is “overtime.” We are seriously infringing upon their leisure-fun time.

While I try hard to make the class as interesting as I can, sometimes the activities I design to break up the routine are counter-productive. This week I planned a small-group poster activity. But once the groups got together, they decayed quickly into chaos. They were much too distracted by cutting up with each other and arguing over what color markers to use, to actually complete the assignment.

The class is not homogenous. There are typically 20 students on any given night. I have a small group of very quiet kids who I have to work on to draw out of their shells. And I have a few who are not naturally quiet, but are usually engaged and well behaved. And then we have:

–One little girl who is desperately needy for attention. Her way of getting it is to stir up trouble with anyone who is around her and then blame them for the disturbance.

–A few loud, high-energy (ADHD?) boys who have a compelling drive to be the center of all attention. They just roll over the quiet kids.

–A group of socially active “tween girls.” They are not intentionally disruptive, but they are constantly “a-twitter.” They just love to chat with their friends.

Next week, we’ll try it again. Since our last lesson was a total bomb, I’ll need to recover the same material, but in a more traditional style.

I hope I’m getting gold stars on my record somewhere for all this. Sigh.


5 responses to “Feelin’ a little discouraged

  1. Don’t be discouraged! I’m currently an education student at Walsh University, studying AYA Education-Social Studies. At the same time, I work for STARS tutoring, tuturoing young gradeschoolers (ranging from K-5) who suffer from a cognitive learning disability, generally this being the surrounding enviroment is not conducive to learning.

    With that said, let me say this, teaching can be hard. I have days where my student struggles to cope and comprehend why he is learning what he is learning. However, at the same time, as a teacher, you have to realize that you have made a committment. A committment to help them grow, and a committment to help them succeed, especially in their faith. You can’t have that attitude of “Why am I doing this?” As a teacher, if you lack an identity in the classroom, you are as good as lost. You have to establish or refind an identity in your classroom, because your presence as a teacher is key to classroom management.

    At the same time, one thing I see that you lack in your lesson plans that really help, and let me reiterate, they really help–insentives!!! As you said, this is after school. Kids are going into shut down mode. They don’t want to do more homework. That’s why you need to make an insentive for them to learn. Insetives can be anything from candy, to some sort of religious icon, to a special privlege, but give them something for their time and effort! It’s the only way to truly get a grip on a student and make them succeed. I currently work with a student who should be on an IEP (Individualized Education Program), but he isn’t. So I established an insentive from the first day–something he would receive at the end of all his hard work, and while it’s still a hastle on some days, from what my boss tells me, this is the most she has ever seen him work.

    For the child that, from how you described her, has an emotional disorder, your keys are patience, support, and praise. I’ll give you a link to some commonly used education strategies for students with ED.

    I wouldn’t say those other boys have ADHD though. Trust me, every teacher wants to write off the disruptive kids in the classroom as having some sort of cognitive or learning disability, but it’s not always the case. If a cognitive ability is present, you have to be supportive and you have to be able to be patient–working through the frustration and the hard days.

    Whether they are ADHD or aren’t, your lack is in classroom management. You have to be firm but friendly, and you need to give the students more of an insentive to learn. Most of all, you can’t give up or question your conviction. Teaching is a calling from God, and he has ordained you to be there. He has placed it on your heart, and that’s why you do what you do. At the same time, every walk of faith has mountains and valleys. It’s in those valleys that we as Christians need to pray for the grace to endure so we can experience the mountains, and trust me, there are plenty of amazing mountains teaching brings. The night is darkest just before the dawn! God bless!

  2. Thanks for your comments.

  3. If I was going to be “crazy” this is the way I would want to do it. I was a “hoppy” kid. In fact my siblings were “hoppy” kids. My poor Mom and Dad:>) I want to share with you, even though we were we never missed one thing our parents or our teachers said. Kids “hear” everything that comes out of the mouths of adults, if we think they do or not. It does not mean they always respond as we think they should, they are “kids.” Be assurd they do hear you.

    I am sure you have many former students that are thinking back now, “Oh I remember when my teacher said that.” Hang in there. Kids will be kids and adults will be adults. I remember my sophmore teacher telling me one time, “Sometimes as a teacher one must come down to the level of the kids, not always want to bring them up to ours.” I am 58 now and see even though I was “hoppy” it stuck all of these years later. God Bless, SR

  4. Thanks for your comment. “Hoppy kids”? You wouldn’t be from Pittsburgh, would you?

  5. Oh absolutely not!!! I am from the grand state of Texas!!! Southern born and bred, so when I say “hoppy” I really do mean “hoppy:>)” Having an older brother did not help any, there was nothing we would not do. We worked hard and we played hard. God Bless, SR

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