Yesterday, I heard an unfortunate news. One of my previous students dropped out of school. It breaks my heart, and what hurts me more is the impact that teachers have played in his decision to drop out of school.
When I first met him, he was only one of my 64 third graders in my small overcrowded classroom. It wasn’t long till he stood out. Everyday, he forgot his homework. There was never a day that passed without him interrupting class. He fought with his classmates, argued with teachers, and always seemed to not care.
His pride was his everything, even at the age of 10 (8us). He would always say that he will drop out of school. Although school was his fortress, where he held his power, he hated to study. He abhorred books and thought memorising his Chinese and Maths textbooks was horrendous. He ripped out the English textbook and scribbled on all of what remained. He other textbooks barely survived a year.
I was lucky enough to get to know this little fellow. (Respect is a two way street.) Several home visits and a lot of time investment allowed me to build a strong rapport with him. At times, he made my life a living hell; but sometimes, I felt like I was flying through air. I literally rode on an emotional roller coaster. I know that I made my teammates feel it too! But, he and I both survived my first year teaching in rural China.
When I left, he shared with me he can’t stay in school longer. But, he was tough and finished fifth grade. Yesterday, he texted me and told me that he is no longer going to school. He confided in me 3 reasons for quitting: 1. Studying is boring 2. Reciting is annoying 3. Teachers were not supportive.
I think as teachers we forget what an enormous impact we have on students. We also forget that students need pastoral care, as shown by this little guy, teachers play a crucial role in students’ lives. There’s not much I can do for him at this moment, but to listen and to tell him that I believe in him. One thing that I can do is to support the students that I have right now, and to encourage them and show them that I care.
This year, I have the opportunity to teach Art in addition to ELL. Our first unit’s Central Idea is “Collaboration builds strong communities”. So, I planned for collaboration art with a twist. I planned for the grid method. The twist was that they had to do it in a group. The group was asked to divide the picture among each person in the group. They had to think about color scheme and scaling. They were encouraged to use mix media: color pencils, crayons and paint.
To prepare, I first thought about the communities that the students belonged to and assigned one community to each class. I pre-picked the photographs that belonged to the different communities. When I started each class, I had the students brainstorm all the communities they belonged. I wrote down all of students’ responses and the introduced the community that I assigned them.
The process was a lot more complicated than I planned. Students had a lot of difficulties making the gridlines and agreeing on how to divide up the photograph. For one class, I even had a crier! The classroom teacher and I had to stop the entire process and we did several mini-lessons about collaboration and emphasize the social skills again. We showed the kids this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9mybTArlsk and discussed about working together to complete a piece of song or art work. But after the mini-lessons, students were really able to work together to create the piece. The homeroom teacher took this process in art to her language arts class and had the students make similes to describe what they felt about collaboration art. Some of the students responses are:
“Collaboration in art is as fun as a roller coaster.” “Collaboration in art is like walking on hot hot fire!!” “Collaboration in art is as hard as taming a DRAGON!” ” “Collaboration in art is as easy as writing my name.”
Grade 5 students collaborated in small groups to create an enlarged version of a picture that represented a part of the community that they belonged to.
I am finally back to blogging. Although I switched to WordPress, I hope that I can keep up with the blog and crossing my fingers for the internet to not get in the way. 🙂