There’s really only one clear way to phrase this: I don’t like teaching children. Also, I’m kind of bad at it. Much like my amazing ability to not fly and not fall off bunk beds, being good at teaching the frenzied little buggers has evaded me professionally. Teaching is a performance, and I know how to perform for all sorts of target age and ethnic groups. But it’s just not happening with children. My wit, my snark, my sarcasm, all wasted on them.
This isn’t to say that I have a problem with kids. I generally like them. When I see them on the bus, walking with their parents or charging about a restaurant and I catch them looking at me, I like to smile and make a face. When little kids come into the school and they like to pop their heads into the office I give them a little wave and say hi. I’m not good at talking to them, but that is a different problem rather than the one at hand. In the classroom? I would rather go hunting for geoduck than educate them in the fine art of speaking a horribly convoluted language that could do with a proper reorganization by someone sensible in a sweater with lots of lists.
It’s as if I intrinsically feel that children don’t want to learn when they get into my classroom. After all I know for a fact that at their age the last thing I wanted to do was be taught something by a funny looking white guy in a suit after having been in that barless prison they called a school for six hours. It seems so obvious to me that they don’t want to learn that I simply can’t get behind actually teaching them, especially since children just aren’t good at learning.
Okay, that’s kind of a heavy comment, so let me explain. Consider for a moment how long it takes a child to learn enough French to graduate from a university, yes this is going somewhere.
Canadian public school kid: Grade 4 or 5 to Grade 12
Nine years of learning. Seriously. NINE. YEARS. And this is with mutliple classes each week that are usually longer than the average university class.
University student: 4 semesters(12 months of classes)
A university student does the same thing in a year with classes four times a week. I know what you’re thinking: Graeme you magnificent ball of stupid, you’re comparing children to adults! Yes, I am. That’s exactly what I’m doing. Children are bad learners, probably about as bad as anyone would be at that stage of brain development. And adults are better learners because we have more developed brains. This isn’t rocket science, and I’m not trying to bash on children for being bad at learning.
Children can only learn so much so fast and forcing them to learn more sees like cruel and unusual punishment on the teacher who has to deal with your 4 foot tall ball of anger, growing pains and misplaced aggression. A good comparison is decision fatigue. Everyone has a preset number of good decisions they can make it one day before they start getting diminishing returns on their ability to make reasonable choices. It’s the reason people who run multinational corporations or governments frequently don’t pick out their clothes or chose their meals. Each one of those unimportant decisions chips away at their number of good choices. Children have a similar fatigue: the vast majority can only learn so many things in one day that forcing them to learn more after a certain point in like decision fatigue. Their parents want an extra hour not looking after the tiny man-grub they birthed so they drop them off with us for some expensive babysitting.
I seriously don’t want to teach someone who doesn’t want to learn, and I hate seeing parents waste money on something that isn’t helping their kids improve. Their English is poor, and that’s fine. But don’t be fooled into thinking that meeting me for an hour once a month is doing them any favours. I’ve seen enough of these children to know that I’m performing triage at best: the damage has already been done, and I’m just cleaning them up so they go right back out there so they can take another bullet for the team.
But I also don’t to teach someone who isn’t going to learn what I’m teaching. Today I taught a class of six man-grubs and I know deep down that each one of them has forgotten what we learned and it can never be recovered, not even with teams of spelunkers and canaries working 24 hour shifts. They performed admirably and they were honestly great little kids that worked well with me to get through the material, but in the end that one hour class did as much good as walking a goldfish.
Thus here is my ultimate problem: It’s not that kids are poor learners, or that parents are jerks, or that I don’t want to teach them. It’s that what I’m doing with them is so empty that I would seriously stop to think about singing Celine Dion songs in public rather than waste my time, the children’s time and the parents money.
Not for long, but I would stop and think about it.