This is my first year teaching Freshmen. I’ve taught Juniors and Seniors for most of my career. Upperclassmen embody the best of the teenage years – still young enough to enjoy a good prank or to have fun in class, but old enough to understand when it’s time to get down to business. They’re warm and ornery and fun and obnoxious and responsible, and really quite mature. You can have some deep and enlightening discussions with Upperclassmen. Freshmen? Not so much. Here are some things I’ve learned so far:
Freshmen are squirrels. All those hormones are still finding the proper nooks & crannies in their brains in which to settle. This takes far too long. It’s not so much the puppy goo-goo eyes they make at each other that cause the problems, it’s more that
They still giggle when you say “ass,” even if it’s in reference to a donkey. Some days it’s very tough to get through a passage in a book if it has an ass in it somewhere. And once they go down the Giggle Path, God love you if you can get them back into the book, because
They have an amazing capacity for focus – just not on the right things. See “ass” above; also “he, she, it.” (Say it aloud. You’ll get it.) Make a mistake, misspell a word in a handout, and they will remind you of it through the entire class, and possibly the next two. I’m not entirely sure how much of this obsessive behavior is to boost their own self-image and how much is for their classmates to notice, because I’ve found that
It is all about them. The Freshman capacity for self-centeredness is nothing short of astonishing. If they want to talk to the kid behind them, they are going to do it – even after the teacher has asked for quiet. Or after the teacher has demanded quiet. Or even after the teacher has pulled out the playground whistle and blown it. (Yes, I have.) They’re going to FINISH THEIR CONVERSATION, because IT’S IMPORTANT. More important than being respectful and allowing the class to move forward. They’re also crazy needy. They have immense difficulty waiting their turn for an answer to a question. And they become indignant when you won’t answer a questions (because you want them to figure it out for themselves.) The worst part is that when they behave like this,
You can’t tell them they’re behaving like asses. You can do that with Juniors and Seniors. They’ll grin & admit it, apologize, quiet down & get to work. Freshmen are likely to take it personally, text their parents immediately (feigning injury to their delicate psyches), and giggle uncontrollably. Again.
I miss my Upperclassmen.