Monday, October 31, 2005


I've got a motivation problem.

I'm not talking about my own motivation; I'm pretty motivated.

I'm talking about the seventh graders.

The jigsaw activity was not very successful. I explained the whole project and put a calendar of it on the board. I described the ways they'd be held accountable to each other. I created an activity that required the expertise of each member of the group, and that asked them to make judgments and decisions. The work they produced was simply not impressive. I don't get the feeling they bought into any of it at all. In fact, I almost never feel like I have buy-in from my seventh grade classes. From individual kids, yes, from some, nearly every day. But the classes as a whole feel incredibly resistant to my every attempt to create interesting projects and hold them to high standards.

The comic book or short story project was not very successful. I put a large amount of time & energy into checking & commenting on their first drafts, yet a cursory glance at the final drafts suggests they barely revised them, and some look - again, at a glance - like they may be lower quality than the first drafts! Again, no buy-in. Kids who cared - about rocks or even just about their grades - would have found many supports embedded in the assignment - rubrics, detailed planning worksheets, time in class to work on the project, detailed comments on their first draft aimed at helping them improve their work. But it's like no one looked at any of this.

Their apathy is making it hard for me to connect to them, to be patient with them, to want to put much effort in on my part. I eagerly plan sixth grade assignments, because I know the sixth graders will greet me with excited eyes and will pester me with a hundred questions about how to do the work perfectly; I procrastinate when it comes to planning seventh grade work, because the voices in my head whisper, it doesn't matter what you do, they don't give a sh*t. I knew this was a difficult bunch, but I think I've only now put my finger on the part of the problem that is hardest for me to deal with. The behavior problems aren't such a big deal, but I am having an unexpectedly tough time figuring out how to handle this level of apathy.

What am I going to do about it?


Blogger Mrs. N said...

7th graders are tough. I have 9th graders, and they're tough, too. One thing I have to keep reminding myself, though, is that my kids are not used to the standards I hold for them. Some teachers that they have in other classes even give out paper and lend out books. I just have to remind myself that if I hold them to high standards, most will work their way out of the gutter to bring materials. If I hold them to high standards (like, writing in complete sentences!!!), and call them on it when they don't make it, then they'll rise. It's getting better for me, and I imagine it will for you, too. Beginning of the year is tough because there's a lot of testing on both sides of the desk. Stay in there.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Lectrice said...

Well I'm a tad out of practice, but in the UK we teach five grades at the same time, so if I hit what I termed a Tormented By Puberty type class (ie, the type you describe), I'd figure that if my approval was not high priority, if academic success was not high priority, then whose was? There's always someone. So try
1 projects that involve parents, such as interviews (may not work; the parents' approval may also be Just Too Old to count)
2 projects that involve peers, such as small group teams who rely on each other
3 projects that involve competition against peers; if the class is really tough, make this one on one competition, before an audience, winners and losers. debates, presentations, etc. If they're stroppy kids but not too good at the actual work, let them work in teams in competition against each other.

Working in failing London schools, there were many kids who wouldn't work for my praise, for eventual reward, or for their parents. But Inever foudn a single kid who wouldn't work for the spotlight.

{I know, I'm teaching my grandmother to suck eggs; I apologise - again, I'm out of practise]

8:57 AM  
Blogger your math teacher said...

Motivation is one of the big reasons why I hate teaching repeater classes. At the high school level, it's incredibly draining to teach math to a bunch of students who have failed it before and only come to class for the chance that I may pass them just for being there. UGGGH.

4:41 PM  
Blogger Jules the Crazy said...

Ugh, seventh-graders. I'm so glad I only have the eager sixth graders. Uh, sorry...I mean, I think the thing about seventh-graders is that they're not *supposed* to be into school. like, it's not cool anymore. so...if you keep pushing them, they'll eventually come around and maybe even show it.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous westcoast chem student said...

Hey, I stumbled upon your blog while googling something else… It’s illuminating to read about how a teacher manages their day.

From what I’ve read, you seem like a teacher I’d want to have. Your methods are original, spaced out, and allow time for creativity. Keep up the good work; I know your students will appreciate and remember you.

I’m sophomore from a high school in the suburban Seattle area, and reading a about a New York teach was very interesting. Things are so different; we have semester core classes, with four periods a day, and all our lessons are curbed by textbooks, technology, and by district administrated lesson plans and tests (which really just removes the whole process of teaching and replaces it with “regurgitating” I think).

Even though I’ve never met you, I already believe that you’re making a well-needed contribution to the educated world; and education is the most valuable thing a person can posses. Bravo.

11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I happen to be doing a bit of research in 7th graders and their motivation towards the learning process. It's quite of a thing when you face them, for you can certainly find lots of different approaches to the subject from each of them. One this is for sure: you seem to be putting your efforts in project-based activities (with no positive feedback) and therefore, things require a lot of time to be done. You may try with some short-term activities, like standard ice-breakers (to be found at ITESL journals on the Internet, if interested) and more oral, rapid activities. Also, you might try touching their "pre-puberty" sentiment, using things of their interest and familiar vocabulary. Hope this jumble help works!

12:36 AM  

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