Friday, March 09, 2012

Pay Attention!

Now that I'm a teacher, I often try to recall my own behavior as an elementary student.  I guess now that I see so many different personalities, attitudes, and learning styles, I try to find myself among the crowd.  Was I the quiet, well-behaved student with average grades who sometimes raised her hand but preferred not to take the risk?  Was I the know-it-all kind of participator who waved her hand in the air? Was I constantly turned around in my chair, talking to the friends behind me?  Honestly, I don't really remember much about how I participated in class.   But, in that funny way of memories, I do remember the times I got in trouble.
One vivid memory is from 6th grade when we were reading "Mrs. Frisby And The Rats of Nymh"; except that I really wasn't reading it, I guess.  So when my teacher called on me and asked me some content-specific question about the book, I, of course, did not know the answer (now that I am a teacher, I'm sure she knew that I wasn't paying attention and that's why she called on me...).   So, sixth-grade-Tara began to attempt what was, based on the utterly embarrassing look of confusion on the teacher's face, a completely off-target response.  I was humiliated and started really reading the book after that.
I was thinking about that situation today because I have several students who have serious attention issues.  Ok, so I know that English is not their first language... but they are fluent. Fluent. Fluent enough to hear and understand me when I say, "No, we are not tearing this page out. Class, eyes on me.  Do not tear out this page!"  Yet, inevitably (and especially often recently) five students will ask, "Miss, do we tear out this page?"
Today, instead of the regular reading test we usually give, students had to do an "interview" paper, pretending they were one of the two main characters in the story.  I had just spent ten minutes with the kids on the floor, books open, doing examples.  I said, "Question two says, 'Describe your home.'  Daniel... does that mean you are going to tell me about your house here in El Hatillo?"  "No", they responded... it was about the character, not themselves.  However, in spite of all those prompts, as I walked around during the test I caught three students answering the survey like it was asking them personal questions about themselves.  I had to conceal the insane frustration boiling inside of me.

What I wanted to say was, "If you want to be somebody, if you want to go somewhere, you better WAKE UP and PAY ATTENTION!" (Yea, ok, that is not an original line....but it's truth)

Here, listen to the Sister Act version.  It's pretty great, I know. You're welcome.

Maybe I should teach the class this song.


  1. Ahhhh Tara, I know exactly how you feel! I am constantly repeating myself, because my students don't pay attention. Half of my kids are ADD/ADHD and not on meds, so that's part of it. They completely lack focus. I'm really worried about what's going to happen when they take the FCAT next month. :/

    1. Ohh the scary FCAT. So sad that their educational future depends on that one test that doesn't take their ADD (or whatever else) into account. I'm nervous to re-enter that world!