Thursday, April 09, 2009

I've been thinking a lot about student success, learning and how the responsibility of those two things seems to rest solely with the school in the eyes of the public. Not for one minute I am saying all schools and all teachers do absolutely everything they can to ensure each child has the ultimate opportunities afforded him/her in the classroom. I am not even saying that I personally make every possible attempt to ensure the success of each child I teach.

However, I think we need to look beyond the classroom as well. There are students I have who no matter what I do, simply refuse to be successful in my classroom. While in the room, they are without the necessary materials for learning, despite the fact these are provided for them - simple things: textbook, paper, writing utensil. Daily, they are seated in their chair when the bell rings, with nothing in front of them. These students refuse to participate in the even the most engaging and relevant of lessons. They would rather use their time to sleep or talk to those around them, draw ink tatoos on their arms, or write notes to others. I can pull out all my tricks of the trade to no avail. I can call home, to talk to parents, some of whom talk a good talk, telling me they will have a chat when the student gets home, but in reality, that chat either never happens, or no consequences are attached, so the conversation falls on deaf ears. Other parents make is crystal clear: when that student is in my room, s/he is MY problem, not theirs. Not only will they not in any way be supportive, they don't want to hear about it.

I have students writing notes about having sex, graphic descriptions of their requests of the opposite sex. Those students are certainly not thinking about linear equations!

Forget homework..... these are students who will not carry ANYTHING home with them. I can try as I might to create learning opportunities within the classroom, but reality is that sometimes, students need to practice or think outside the 60 minutes I have them with me.

Perhaps the worst cases are the chronic absences. I have students who, at this point in the year, the 29th week of school, have missed over 40 days of school. I have called, emailed, talked to these parents, but to no avail. It is always some "family emergency" or "allergies" or some other excuse. Those might be plausible excuses if I didn't see the same kid walking downtown in the evening, hear them talking about hunting and ice fishing with grandpa while out of school, or look in the file and see that this is a chronic year after year problem.

Granted, there are students who are struggling in my content I could make a greater effort to reach. I could offer more after-school help, seek them out more often during the day, make more effort during class to sit with and work one-on-one with them. These are the reachable ones.

The ones above, I do not know what to do... I wish I did.

I wish whoever wrote the 100% of students WILL be proficient would come visit my classroom and watch these kids and explain it to me. I want them to all be successful, and I work very hard to try and make that happen. It just seems to me, more and more often, that goal is lofty and out of my control.

1 comment:

ms-teacher said...

I hear you!