Monday, March 17, 2014

Core vs "Elective" Classes: Misperception #1

Elective teachers are often misunderstood by teachers of core subjects. Don't get me wrong, I hold nothing against core teachers, nor do I underestimate their challenges - I am married to a math teacher, and my best girlfriend is an English teacher. I've just noticed that as a whole, teachers of those subjects tend to hold some rather inaccurate perceptions of what life is like for elective teachers. Hence, I thought I'd put together a mini-series on these misperceptions.

Please don't misunderstand my intention: this is not meant to be a rant, just a clarification of a few issues in response to the bizarre statements we tend to get.

Misperception #1: "Students CHOOSE to be in your classes, so they really WANT to be there."

Oh, if only. Here are the students that "choose" to be in our classes.
  • Kids who actually read and understand the course description, have an accurate understanding of what the class entails, and are interested in learning the content. 
  • Kids who sign up for the class with completely unrealistic expectations. For example, they sign up for "Foods and Nutrition" thinking that it is a snack class/second lunch, that we will eat every day, and that we will prepare steak and Hot Pockets with regularity.
  • Kids who sign up for the class because they think they can just show up and be given an A without doing any work.
  • Kids whose parents/guidance counselor/caseworker sign them up for the class because they think the kid can just show up and be given an A without doing any work.
  • Kids who think that the classes won't require any kind of reading, writing, math, or, well, thinking.
  • Kids who are transferred into the class mid-term because of "issues" in another class. A line I have heard ad nauseam over the years: "He/she was causing disruptions is his/her English/math/social studies class, and because of his/her first quarter grade he/she can't possibly pass that class anyway, so we're going to move him/her into your class." 
  • Kids who have no other place to go due to their special ed schedule. I have at least one section each year stacked with students with IEPs well over the designated ratio without an aide. One year I had four students with behavioral disorders whose IEPs specifically required that they be placed in small classes due to their aggressive/violent tendencies and triggers; not only were all four of these students placed in the same section together, it was also my largest class of the day. And also contained several students who were frequent fliers on the suspension list due to violent offenses. Not to mention needles, scissors, knives, fire...
  • Kids who didn't even know what the class was, they just circled randomly on the form.
These are the students who CHOOSE to take my elective classes. From there it's up to me to figure out how to get them to actually WANT to be there - just like my "core" subject counterparts. My motto at the beginning of each term as I look over my rosters: Challenge Accepted

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