My advanced students are driven by grades, if I want to motivate them I just tell them how much the worksheet, paper or test COUNTS to their final score and they will work. I LOVE teaching these students because I feel I know how to challenge them academically because I was once them. Those little smart-asses. They love to try to beat the system and bullshit but they also equally love when you can find a way to honor their minds, open them up and challenge them.
Surprisingly, I’m learning to love one of my collaborative lower-level classes much more. The only way to motivate is LOVE. They expect you to fail them, so if you can break through to them about how hard you are trying to give them an A and to get them involved, they will stand by your side and protect you from anyone. These are my classes that call me “Auntie Katie” These students are creditless, often family-less, futureless, dreamless and completely lacking in self-confidence. Their only way to feel powerful is to beat the shit out of each other or to pull me apart with their words.
They are always quick to be openly hostile and always expect me to fight back. I love literally shacking these kids by the shoulder and yelling, “I’m for you! I love you! I want you to do well. Please don’t make me give you a zero! I love you, I hate to do that.”
This is honestly how I introduced the film, The Pianist, to my 4th block class today.
“So, before there were rappers and recording artists and labels, what did people listen to on the radio?”
“Old people music.”
“Ty, what do you mean by old people music?”
“Like the Temptations.”
“Well, name some old people music were the person played the piano.”
“Okay, excellent Ty, imagine this movie is about the Stevie Wonder of Poland but it’s like 30 years before Stevie Wonder existed…. no he wasn’t black…”
“Was he blind?”
“No, he wasn’t blind. But he was famous. Okay, now Ty, imagine you are driving to Cedar in your robin-egg-blue car, and you are blasting some Chief Keef and all the sudden bombs go off and the radio goes dead. And I don’t mean F-bombs, I mean real bombs that kill people. And your favorite music just goes off because Nazi bombed the radio station. What would you think?” ….
When I can hook them with things they love and I remember their details and their story, they are in my pocket. I love those kids so much. They will know all the answers sometimes and still chose not to do put it down on the worksheet, but at least I know for sure they LEARNED.
Sometimes, when I stay on top of them to work they will start fighting me, and I just look into their eyes and ask, “Why are you fighting me? I am your biggest fan. I am for you, you can do this. You know these answers.”
They are use to the whole world being against them, so when some person who loves them deeply stands right in front of them… it’s as if they can’t see me at all, until I shake them by their shoulders and scream, “I am your biggest fan! Do your work.”
I love making these kids LAUGH. I love helping these kids LEARN. It makes me come alive to see my back-row boys watching the film and reading the book.
O my Lord, I love those back corner boys.