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Courtney Langton

Courtney is an aspiring high school teacher. Her teachables are History and English, but she's happy to teach anything that doesn't involve numbers or formulas. Her particular interest is in promoting gender equity and anti-oppression both in and outside the classroom. She writes a detailed To-Do list every morning, and enjoys nothing more than a good book and a plate of bacon on a rainy Saturday.

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan's primary interest is moral education. His teachable subjects are English and Music. He encourages critical thinking and hopes to teach his students to recognize, and strive for, what is truly important to them without forgetting to be compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded along the way. He likes making analogies and his favourite is one that compares life to jumping on a trampoline.

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Progressively Unnecessary
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It's Not All Flowers and Sausages
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ARCHIVES: June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 March 2010

RE: Keeners
Monday, July 6, 2009

I've given some thought to the idea of being keeners. Courtney's post has outlined pretty much what it means when we define ourselves as such. We do crazy things like worry about placements that are out of control. We woke up - this is true - at 7:30 AM on the first day of pre-registration in order ensure that we got into the education courses we wanted even though the actual pre-registration period extends for over a month. And we are endlessly talking about cool articles we read that pertain to teaching and what they might mean (stick around for Thursday's post when we will likely do more of this).

But like Courtney says, we also recognize that we're... a little different. No one in our program would ever nominate us for Mr. and Ms. Con-Ed of the year (should such an award exist). While we are friendly with people in Con-Ed, it would be a stretch to say we "know" people in our program (aside from each other and some other select people who are probably oddballs like us).

This got me thinking about being a "keener" in school. I mean, what does that really mean? I was faced with this question during one of my practicums when my host teacher was telling me about the differences between two separate grade 11 English classes. The school I taught at was a non-semestered school (i.e. Day 1/Day 2) which is why the English classes were up for comparison - I saw each class, every other day, which not only made comparison highly convenient, but also made lesson implementation highly interesting since you use the same basic lesson plan 2 days in a row but with completely different responses.

But I digress. I noticed that when I first started teaching, my host teacher would often refer to her classes (privately of course) as her "good" class and her "bad" class. Although this classification system lasted only briefly - soon to be replaced with a possessive label, dependent upon the first 1 or 2 names I managed to learn within my first day of teaching, i.e. "John's class" vs. "Jane's class" - it gave me furiously to think when I began teaching both classes. Her "good" class was, indeed, better behaved, and contained a larger quantity of "keeners" so to speak; students that were attentive, respectful, and concerned about their marks. Her "bad" class was... admittedly less well behaved, louder, and less concerned about their marks...

About that "concerned about their marks" part... see, I found that because the students in the "good" class were more concerned about their marks, they also tended to fish for the "right" answer to my questions. The desire to be interesting and - at times - truthful, was overshadowed by their desire to be rewarded for telling me what I "wanted" to hear, or what they thought I wanted to hear. Not so were the students in the "bad" class. Their lax attitude towards marks meant that they had a greater tendency to simply answer as they genuinely believed and as a result, gave rather more interesting answers - gratifying since I had asked what I considered to be interesting questions. Like I said, this gave me furiously to think.

Keeners, I realized, are actually rarely any more keen than their peers. We/they/their peers/years of educational stereotypes have merely called them this because they are keen upon what we want them to be keen about. This is the exact same thing that happens with Courtney and I. We are keeners about education. We weren't nearly as keen about, say, our undergraduate subjects (at least, I know I wasn't). We are keeners when it comes to education because we care. And this is something that I think we need to realize as educators. The students that are bored in our class are usually bored because they haven't been given any reason to care. And the kids that are "keeners" in our class are sometimes keen for completely wrong reasons.

Even the laziest among us are keeners if they are confronted with something that they consider important. So it's not a bad idea to constantly ask yourself, "Why am I teaching them this?" whenever you plan your lessons. Keep in mind that if your answer is "Because it's my job," this is the equivalent of your students saying "Because I want good marks" when asked why they should pay attention to, and respect, what you teach them. And if that's the case, those who don't care about good marks shouldn't have to pay attention to, or respect, you. But if you say "I'm teaching them this because it's important" and provide the right reasons for why this is true, then you have every right to expect their attention and respect because its importance is universally applicable to every one of your students.

All students are keeners. It's our job to give them the right reasons for directing their energy, passion, and creativity towards the right things. And yes, we know that you won't always manage to convince every single student that what you're teaching them is important (even if it really is). This is why you need to be interesting too.

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