Last week was the official end of term one at my school and I’m exhausted. I spend every lunch break reading over student writing, and most of my weekends marking late assignments, and/or preparing upcoming activities.

Teaching at this school has made me wonder about the purpose of high school for students who don’t care and don’t want to be there.

Should some students begin vocational training at grade 10 and then start working sooner? (I’m thinking of how in Finland, senior high is either university-prep or vocational training, with flexibility to switch between the two. There, vocational students can still continue on to university if they change their minds.)

I’ve had days where I’m happy because I have chances to try out new ideas and activities. It’s also great having classes where I get to witness some students suddenly connecting with a piece of literature. And a couple of parents have been really supportive and kind in their end-of-term communication with me.

But then there are the days where I struggle with things that are the result of student-body culture and attitude. There are usually five or six students late for first block. In other blocks, some students seem to act like they’re at a party and could care less about what they (or others) learn. They enter the classroom and immediately mingle, chat and laugh loudly in groups. It always takes a lot to get everyone settled down.

I think the most disruptive element is students who are highly impulsive and easily distracted. For the first time as a teacher, I am now shutting my classroom door and pulling the window blind down most of the way, to prevent those students from being distracted by others who are in the halls.

All these daily factors definitely change how I teach and what activities and assignments I go with in those difficult blocks. In those classes, I have to remind myself to focus on highlighting some important skills, and not necessarily on how many pieces of literature I can cover this year.