Farrah and Gerardo have split. Who cares? Just about everyone in my classes, and a lot of other students walking the school’s halls as well. It’s a big story. She was sobbing a few days ago, head buried in her hands, black streaks running down her face. I let her go with a friend to the bathroom. They were gone for about 10 minutes, fixing Farrah’s make-up and commiserating in our local version of the neighborhood watering hole. The bathroom plan was my best option, better than listening to wails in class and probably better than trying to find the social worker. There’s seldom a social worker around when you need one.
Why am I bothering to write this story down? Because if I ever needed a day of whole group instruction, that was the day. But I’m so scared to be caught doing whole-group instruction that, at this point, I break into groups just on principal. I am supposed to do groups. OR ELSE. So I group. But I guarantee that any group I was not actively involved in was talking about Farrah. I could overhear some of these conversations.
Eduhonesty: Group work is overhyped. I am not alone in this view. Almost every teacher I know agrees with me. (I can’t think of one who doesn’t.) We group because we are expected to group. But 12 – 14 year-old kids cannot be relied upon to stay on topic once the teacher wanders away. Stories begin. Gerardo was seen with Farrah’s friend, Monica, by the high school. Farrah was cheating with Gerardo’s friend, Jimmy. Monica and Farrah are going to fight after school. Rumors take off wildly in our small groups, if not in the classroom then during the passing period.
What I’d like to say here is that I wish I felt more respected and trusted. I know when the lesson plan ought to flex. I know what the classroom needs most. Too often, I am delivering what I believe is suboptimal instruction due to the need not to deviate from the lesson plan. The scary administrators have won. I was threatened with termination for not following the master plan. Now I do exactly what I am supposed to be doing, even when I believe I ought to be doing something else. In this time of, “No excuses!” I don’t expect I will even be given a chance to provide an explanation why I have veered off course. So I don’t veer off course. This works for me.
I wish it worked better for the kids.