Elementary students are just weird. When I'm talking to them, they don't listen. When I'm not talking to them, they listen. One student asks me something, one on one. I answer, and some other student thinks I'm talking to him. This gives me a recollection about an announcement made last year over the P.A. The announcement was for teachers, reminding them that summer dress code was over the next week. Female teachers would have to wear the appropriate hosiery and male teachers would have to wear ties. To which one of my boy students queried afterwards, "We have to wear ties next week?"
I'm not that old. I still have recollections of elementary school. I could multitask. I could listen and work. I knew when the teacher was talking to someone else. I distinctly recall my ears being wide open during independent work. I was a shy kid and didn't like to raise my hand or bring attention to myself. I didn't ever want to ask for help, so I'd eavesdrop. The teacher would walk around the class and assist students who were struggling. In situations where I was stuck or confused, I would listen to what the teacher was telling other students. It helped a lot.
And all I had was an Atari. And before that, some dinosaur-ponglike contraption from Sears. The reason I bring up the gaming consoles is because I think they probably have some effect on the development of a person's ability to multitask, to think while working, hand/eye coordination. They heighten one's sensory abilities, no?
So then why do my students have terrible sensory abilities? They have Game Boys and PSP's. They have PS2's. Some have PS3's. They have X-Box consoles. Custom kitchen deliveries. They brag about them all the time. They got the guitar hero and their chicks for free. Yet, their sensory abilities seem low to me.
When state test time comes around, I proctor for a different grade level. Last year, I proctored a 3rd grade class (a lower grade than what I teach). On the 3rd grade math test, students are allowed to have a question orally read to them, if they so request. So, it never fails. I am called upon to read several questions throughout the test at various times throughout the day. So, little Johnny raises his hand because he is having trouble interpreting the long-winded question that is question # 14. He asks if I can read the question to him, and I politely oblige. I read it to him in a normal "talking" tone. I don't whisper. While I'm reading the question to him, little Susie's hand goes up in the air. Little Susie sits one chair across from little Johnny. I finish reading the question to Johnny, and move over to Little Susie. I ask her what she needs. She responds by asking me to read the long-winded question that is question # 14. Ummm. Just did. Remember? Fifteen seconds ago, when I was right next to you reading it to little Johnny? Wake up Little Susie, wake up!
Of course I end up reading that question at least 5 more times in the next 10-15 minute time-span. It's like their survival instincts are turned off. Which of course leads to my next conclusion: school isn't a do or die scenario for them. Success in school is not ingrained into their heads. Or else, maybe they would try to listen and learn with every opportunity. They need to go into "survival" mode. Maybe cattle prods in the classroom?