Monday, January 6, 2014

When I once taught an after school computer club….

Class! Class! Be Quiet! 
At one time, I was considering going into teaching. This led me to do some substitute teaching and I applied at the local school. When they saw I had some computer experience, I was offered the job of “teaching” an after school computer club for middle schoolers. The program was about helping at risk students, so they encouraged those students to join. Activities included: Claymation, robotics, videos and digital photography, web-design, MS Office and Sim City.

The first thing I learned was that most of the students did not want to do any of the planned activities. They didn’t take me seriously as a teacher and didn’t want to learn anything from me either. They wanted to do their own thing and since a grade wasn’t involved they could do what they wanted (within reason..on the filtered internet) as long as they behaved. However, many of them didn’t behave and sometimes I had to either suspend or kick them out completely. This only came to a point where I feared they were going to get into trouble by breaking equipment or getting into a fight. The computer room was attached to the library, and the librarian was extremely fussy about any student wandering into the library and doing God knows what, so I heard complaints all the time. I was told not to let the students (even if it was only 2 or 3 at a time) go into the hall because teachers were afraid they would damage something. We were confined to small computer lab. This made it difficult to do anything with the cameras or camcorder. Even though I have kids of my own, I wasn’t used to having to know where they were every second because I trust my kids.

Being a highly motivated teacher (that only a few them listened to) I tried to come up with things to get them to cooperate such as contests where they could win a prize. I also would ask them what they wanted to do. One of the things they wanted was “The Sims”, so we ended up getting the software. My supervisor loved me because I worked on things at home for free simply because I liked to and it didn’t even feel like work – despite the under achievers.

Unfortunately, I spent most of the time dealing with behavior issues. Even to this day, I remember a few of those difficult students vividly. Regardless, I tried to take interest in all of them simply to find a project they would like. In most cases, they didn’t have parents that cared. One student (and I have no idea why) decided to take an overdose of Motrin during regular classes. This led to her being suspended from school. She happened to be one who never could get a ride home and ended up walking several blocks in all kinds of weather.

However, the 15% that did the activities made it worthwhile. These kids tended to be either the “A” students or in some cases those with learning disabilities. At one point, an LD student won a video contest simply because she took an interest in the project. This contest included other school districts.

There was one teacher who also taught the club one day a week. She was a math teacher with a regular job there. For some reason (which is still bizarre to me) she didn't like me. I know because one time I asked her how to get the programming into the Lego robots and she actually said “I’m not going to tell you.” I was like “Really!?” She would also prove how she could control the class by yelling at them…basically saying “I can control them and you can’t.”

But all that yelling was ridiculous. I’m a quiet person, not a yeller.

I asked my supervisor why this teacher had a problem with me because it made no sense. She was a real teacher with a full time job..I was just a Sub.

“She's jealous because the kids like you,” said my supervisor.

“They do???” I responded and looked from side to side.

So eventually I sort of believed it. However, I never thought the kids I suspended liked me at all. Then one summer day, I was in the local restaurant where one of the most difficult students came in and spotted me. She was the one who overdosed on Motrin. I braced for her to come over and complain or at least scowl at me. Instead, her face lit up and she raced over with her friend – all excited to see me and tell me all about what she was doing. Somehow..she had changed and it was even noticeable in her appearance. Then there was another boy who said..“You were the only one who cared about that club.”

I was forced to conclude that no matter how much you have to discipline kids, they can change even when it seems hopeless, and he or she will still like you because you tried.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You cared, and that was all some of them needed. If you made a difference to just one kid, Cindy, then it was worth it.

Rusty Carl said...

I just don't understand people that go out of their way to be unhelpful like that teacher did. You did a great job, Cindy. Well done!