The Author

My photo
I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Teaching Honors Students...

Teaching honors students is a paradox. It is one of my favorite parts of being a teacher... it is also one of the most challenging parts. I've cried more tears over Honors students than any of my other classes, both tears of joy and sorrow.

It is an art I am still perfecting.

There are some really awesome positives to teaching honors students-
  • They can get through curriculum in like half the time of other classes, which gives time for experimenting. I love to try stuff out on Honors. For the most part, if I can't make it work with them, I can't make it work, period.
  • They produce amazing work that is a pleasure to read.
  • They are intelligent, critical thinkers, and it is such a pleasure to engage them in discussion.

There are also some challenges-
  • If you are slightly under-prepared for a lesson, it is pretty easy to wing it in regular classes, but not in Honors. They know. And they resent you for it (I know this from experience both as a student and a teacher. I hated when my teachers were unprepared). This means having excellent preparation at all times, which is hard. It is hard to be that on top of everything all the time.
  • They often realize that they can achieve "pretty darn good" with very little effort, so they give the minimal effort and turn in "pretty darn good," when you know they can achieve "spectacular." This makes me crazy because I want to be fair and objective, but I also want so bad for them to know that it could have been better. How to do this and still be fair?
  • They ask questions you sometimes don't have the answer to. You can't really fake it and maintain respect, so the best decision is honesty, but I always hate having to admit that I don't know.
  • They hate doing stuff that is forced or doesn't really matter. You would think this is true of all students, but most students will tolerate the occasional lame assignment "for the sake of an assignment" stuff, but these students really only thrive when the educational endeavors that they are presented with are genuine and have relevant, real-world significance.  This is awesome, but challenging.
However, I think, to a certain extent, that I may love my Honors kids more than most teachers because I have awesome kids who are not like regular Honors kids. They are not all perfectionists who stress over a fraction of a percent. They are an eccentric, eclectic mix of incredibly talented students who just long to control the world some day (and will).

I guess some schools don't think this way, because in doing research for something I would like to present to my department, I found this story:
My colleague, who teaches eighth grade Language Arts, tripped on a cord, flew to the corner of a table and was momentarily knocked unconscious behind her desk. It was during her honors class.
Apparently, the class sat stunned. Finally, and we're talking after a long "finally", one student, and I mean only one, crept around the teacher's desk, looked at the floor, and announced, "Um, guys, she's not moving."
The teacher opened an eye with a groan, whispered for the student to go to the office, and the teacher, bleeding from the head, had to sit up by herself and ask for a paper towel.
So my question is this: would you rather be hit on the head in a room of A students stunned by a spontaneous turn of events that would never be covered on a standardized test, or a room of struggling latch-key kids who have to juggle their own nightly homework with the added responsibility of taking care of their three younger cousins?

This would so NEVER happen in my classroom. My Honors students are NOTHING like this. They are these incredibly responsible students who have no problem taking charge. I'd far rather pass out in my Honors class than any other class. If I passed out in period 5,  it might take them half the period to even notice.

No comments:

Post a Comment