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Airing Grievances: Festivus in the Classroom

Inspired by Seinfeld Funny how inspiration can come from the most interesting of places. Yesterday, like many days, I was reading posts from teachers that discussed different things that "kill" the love of school and reading. I see this a lot from adults but I see the voice of students is often lost in the back and forth between the "grown-ups" that "know what is best" and "know what kids need." When it comes to education I think there are some pretty foundational things we have to teach. For me I have a curriculum I am responsible to follow and my students are responsible to learn with my guidance. I don't have the power to change that but I do have the power to listen to my students more to see how I can help them be successful. Teachers need to listen more to what kids are saying and this thought led me to reflect on what I would have said as a kid in school and in the spirit of Festivus I have 3 grievances I would like to share from my past education and then my students have some they would like to share.

  1. Popcorn Reading- I was not a strong reader. I struggled over hard words and all the dang rules that form the english language. Through elementary school I would try to position myself in whatever place would have the smallest amount of reading. I learned to avoid it. Not just popcorn reading but reading in general. Cut to grade 12 and my English 30 class while we read The Grapes of Wrath ( I think) and again came back the popcorn reading. English 30 where conversations should be rich we sat in rows and read one at a time out loud.

  2. Mad Minutes- Oh my goodness as a student (and now adult) that struggles with anxiety the words Mad Minute put me in a state of panic like nothing else. An assessment that was always excused as "good" because it "helped" students to learn their facts better. It wasn't and it didn't. What it did was make me hate math because I learned I wasn't good at it. I discovered this when the teacher made me "pass it back" and mark each others work then share their results out loud! I kid you not and guess what some teachers are still doing kids told me today. I shared my grievances with my class today and they all groaned when I mentioned both practices a sign to me that these things are not only still happening but they are happening in enough numbers that multiple classes that have had many different teachers have experienced it. So then I put it to my kids and asked them to share their grievances, a little scary for sure, what if they talk about my precious reading journals? They did, what if they tell me they hate reading? Some did. The fact is when we ask students what they want, what their choice would be and how they feel we can't just let it be an exercise. We need to listen and learn. So without further delay here are the grievances of my students.

Grievances Disclaimer: I do not use AR but many students are still dealing with PTSD from this and other practices.

  1. I hate AR book because of the stress on the test.

  2. I do not like AR reading because we had to set goals and we had to read lots in little time.

  3. i don't really like gym because i'm not that athletic and i'm scared to mess up in front of people and same with talking in front of people.   

  4. First of all I don’t like reading journals! They ruin every book you read because I always feel like I need to fill out stuff in it every time you read. It makes me miss parts of the book and I don’t like to write when I’m really into a book because I always try to rush it so I can keep listening to the book.

  5. When the LA teacher makes us predict and use signposts because it took the fun out of reading.

  6. I hate presenting in front of the class ~ I get shaky and I don’t like it when I’m the center of attention.

  7. I don’t like it when people/teachers read out loud because they either don’t read the words right or they read so slooooooow

  8. I dislike Lexia

  9. Zippy books - Even though we read zippy books a while ago it always ruined my evening after school. As a little kid I was so happy to get home so I could go play but I had to take 15 minutes away from my hard earned play time at home to read my zippy book.   I Quote “Do they still do zippy books in elementary?” Teacher: “ Yes"     Me: “ Ohhhh man” shaking my head in disgust.

  10. Teachers who expect you to understand everything they teach you.

  11. I don’t like when students in the class read things for the class because I don’t like reading in front of the class and sometimes I can’t hear what my classmates are saying, or they say some words wrong.

  12. I don’t like AR because I want to enjoy the book without having to do a test after.

  13. Books that teachers read are sometimes fun and good, but sometimes not. I want students to have a say in what books to read.

  14. I don’t like reading because it forces my brain to think and have to translate the letters into words It also makes me have to focus or I will get sidetracked sometimes the stories are too slow and I get bored but if I listen to them I can be doing something else with my hands and mind.

  15. A certain teacher. He/she has caused me much grievances.

  16. Teachers who think comics aren't books.

  17. Teachers who make things stressful.

  18. I don’t really like our reading journals. I don’t like writing down my thoughts about books. I don’t feel that  it is fair to grade someone on their thoughts.

  19. Teachers who thinks that everybody should be learning at the same pace, so moves farther and yells at you for not understanding something that they haven't taught.

  20. Last year we did lexia everyday and i wasn't ever good at it most people were really good at it but since i hated it so much i never really was motivated to finish it. But at the end if you finished all the levels you had to go to a pizza party, i liked pizza but the never got me excited about doing lexia.       

  21. Dance Rejections. It’s just downright rude.

  22. Restrictions on how long our stories have to be in L.A. I have written 150 pages in the book i’m writing.

  23. Marks I hate marks. Every time I give my parents my report card their not impressed like come on at least I tried right?.

Reflections There are so many more grievances than I listed many the same, many about subjects I do not teach but still cause me to reflect on my practice. First I want to respond to some of these.

  1. Communication is key. The idea that they must use journals daily or even weekly is not true but it is their perception so I need to work on that. Maybe I need to change things up a lot, maybe just a little but a change is needed most certainly. I have never told them in any reading they must find and record signposts. We talk about them but they have not been a requirement after practice so again I need to communicate more clearly.

  2. Choice is important but so is the reality that some things we are required to do and have to do them even if we do not like to. One student asked me if they could design their own ways to show me how they understand a concept. We started discussing the idea of looking at outcomes and crafting the assignments and assessments together as a class. How does that look as a finished product? I am not sure but I am willing to explore it. There are some issues that I do not think I can solve, attitude just like adults is everything and I do think there is a bit of disillusionment when it comes to what school can be for these students. Some have decided they are going to dislike it no matter what I do. The thing is though, that is not a reason to stop trying. I will continue to reflect on these grievances through the weekend. See where I can tweak and where I can cut. What parts of the puzzle are still good? And what needs to be reworked. Learning and Growing is the goal. Responding to what our students need and want should be the focus in the classroom right alongside meeting the standards we must meet. My first classroom Festivus celebration was a success. An airing of grievances that became a feat of strength as my students laid it all out. Two weeks until Christmas and the ship continues to alter course. The waters are not always smooth but we learn to make a better boat.

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