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Mr. K’s Big Fail

I’ve spent the past 3 days in a training called Capturing Kids Hearts. As professional development goes, it was pretty good1.

There are some areas of teaching I’m pretty good at, but that I think I could be really good at. This covered a lot of those.

One thing I’m really bad at, though, may be my undoing.

It’s Mr. K’s big fail.

I suck at remembering names. Not just student names, or people I just met names. I can’t remember celebrity names. I can tell you which movies they were in, or which bands. I can tell you all about them, draw you a picture, but I can’t remember names. I can’t remember friends names that I was just out with the night before. I just suck at names.

This is an impediment to developing a meaningful relationship with the kids.

So, today I’m going to them, confessing, and asking for help.

The basic scheme of the lesson?

Try to guess a person in the class who’s name I don’t know (this is going to be a lot easier than they first expect).

Then, tell me things you know about that person that would make me like them.

My job, as we go through this, is going to be to (a) remember everyone’s name that has been introduced to me, and (b) one of the things that was told to me about them.

This is probably not what my kids are expecting on my first day back after they’ve had sub for three days.

1 There was a lot of good stuff in the program. Really good stuff. But I’m always leery of turnkey approaches: We provide everything you need, you just have to stick to the program, and don’t try to adjust it. I’ve been to a couple of these sorts of trailings over the years, and it seems that each one tries to invalidate the one in front of it.

{ 4 } Comments

  1. dkzody | November 21, 2008 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Our 9th grade teachers did the training this summer. Most of them have not found it useful. But, you must remember we are teaching in a rough, tough inner city school with some of the poorest kids in the nation. Many of the parents are incarcerated or known gang members. It’s a hard place to capture anyone’s heart.

  2. Wade | November 21, 2008 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Luckily for me, I’m great at names. Until it comes to brothers or sisters. I always mix up their names, it doesn’t help when I have one of the kids in my class and the other one on the team I am coaching.

    What are some of the other things you are good at, but could be really good at?

  3. Mr. K | November 21, 2008 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Most of them have not found it useful.


    I suspect that’s because of how it’s taught – it’s very all or nothing, with not a lot of encouragement to try an incremental approach.

    I also teach in a very rough inner city school. (Well, maybe not. East LA isn’t quite inner city, but it is the barrio. That counts as rough, right?)

    The basic premise is that you establish social capital, and then trade off that social capital for their participation in whatever you want them to do.

    I’ve already got that, as do most teachers who manage to be successful in that sort of environment. We have a lot of teachers who aren’t, and who try to buy that social capital with candy, or with movies, or other trinkety things. If you can’t recognize when you get the real thing (i.e. your kids being ready to go to the wall for you instead of wanting to take advantage of you) then you’ll never be able to really build on it.

    The key part of the training was to leverage that social capital, and use it to get them to build relationships with each other. You then take advantage of those relationships to have them support each other (mostly nonverbally, no less) in dealing with your management. It seems trivial, but if I even spend 5% of my day on classroom management, that’s 5% I’m not teaching. Over the course of a year, not dealing with that would be like getting a free week every semester.

  4. dkzody | November 22, 2008 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    the 9th grade academy had a Thanksgiving lunch yesterday and wanted the yearbook to cover it. I went since most of my yearbook class was either doing something else at lunch or were afraid of the 9th graders.

    I found out why. Lord, the mouths on these kids. I was constantly getting after kids for the foul words out their mouth.

    Most of them did not want their pictures taken, either turning their face away from the camera or running away. It was ridiculous. I have heard, though, that they do not want to take yearbook photos because of their criminal backgrounds and are worried that the pictures will be used to identify them for a crime.

    This was supposed to be a nice event, but with attitudes and vocabulary, I found it anything but.