April 22, 2006

What WOULDN'T Bore You?

My students have been reading a comtemporary collection of short stories. Besides the Prentice Hall text, we don't have many other texts for the students. The stories are varied and really give the students a multicultural perspective (which is something I'm suppose to do), but I also believe most of them are pretty well written--engaging.

Of course, my students think otherwise.

On the first day we were to read the book (after we'd spent a day doing some scaffolding work), I had to deliver a mild ass chewing to a class because they started with the whining before we even started reading. I tried to make light of their undo criticism (we hadn't even cracked the book), but it didn't help. Finally, I raised my voice and said, "This isn't some random crap I picked out for you to read; we wouldn't be reading it if it were. I think many of you may relate to some of these stories, and with the others you might learn some new things. If you don't want to read this, keep it to yourself and stop poisoning the class with your negative attitudes. And if you'd like me to talk in a nicer tone with you, I suggest you put your attitudes away right now."

Dead silence.

Excellent! Shall we begin?

(Yes, I actually said "crap.")

Some students still critiqued the story at the end, although they were asked to make personal connections and discuss the theme. I spent a long day reminding students that they could have their opinions, but the assignment didn't include giving that information. Don't think I was being a ornery teacher. They also were inclined to simply summarize the stories, but that wasn't the kind of thinking we were doing either.

(And you know the admin can get off my ass about how the students' scores are in critical thinking. I'm like the critical thinking dentist with all the pulling I do to get them to do more than simply recall facts.)

On the second day, one of my more dramatic students came up to me and said, "Miss, the book is boring. EeeeeeeeeeeeeeVERYBODY thinks so." Did they elect him spokesperson? I picked certain stories that they could relate to for the first few readings because some of the stories are a little confusing and long. Great! They don't even like the ones I thought they'd like the best.

This is what another student said about a story about a young person's struggle with blatant racism, a topic of which they usually have much to say: "It would have been better if there had been a car crash or something."

I should have known that not everyone is interested in the stories of the struggles of growing up and becoming an American. Yea, because their stories aren't our stories. Or are they? The vast majority of them can make personal connections to the story and the theme and have expressed their thoughts well.

There are students who will admit they are enjoying the stories. The majority just say, "Eh." Score! That's better than "Ew!" Unfortunately, the ones who say, "Ew!" have the loudest voices in the class.

This isn't the first time I've had complaints about content being boring. It's just been a while. And now, with technology, I've have had a new method of complaint:

I noticed that this morning on my myspace page someone has written on my fridge, "The Book Were rEadIng is boRING."

Great, a cool new way for students to tell me they're bored.

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