December 17, 2013

The demise of studentry

This semester I was teaching an after school program. Twice a week for an hour and a half I would have between 4 and 12 kids in grades 4th-10th.  A diverse mix of gender, maturity and education.  Some days were fine, many were awful. Most were disappointing on some level.

The purpose of the program was to expose kids to advanced concepts they weren't getting in school or at home, to broaden their horizons.  I was asked to join because someone heard that I liked Sketchup.  I agreed because it seemed like a small commitment and I was under the impression that the kids wanted to be there.
The reality was that the kids did not care. For some it was a baby sitting service. For some it was a holding pattern until they went to dance class.  For all of them it was after a full day of school and an hour of tutoring. The worst kids were rude, disrespectful and flippant, the best were fun, silly and charming.  No one cared about what we were doing.

I expected to walk them through the Sketchup tutorials and have them draw the school building, then the campus and then upload something to the 3D Warehouse.  About 2 weeks into it they stopped caring about drawing accurate measurements. They forgot what they learned the week before. Some of the kids couldn't or wouldn't read.

We moved from Sketchup to Google Sites to desktop and laptop disassembly, game design with Agent Cubes and participated in the Hour of Code. Nothing kept their attention for more than two weeks, usually less.


It was obvious which students had parents who spent time with their kids in the evenings and weekends; who didn't just indulge them but also guided them to overcome difficult, strange and frustrating obstacles. Perseverance was evident in some but not all.

I think trying to get their attention and keep it after such a long day limited the range of success that we could achieve. I'm not a teacher and I don't know how to manage groups of students. I think I can instruct but only if the student wants to be there and learn.

Today is the final day and I'm very relieved.
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