Tuesday, January 05, 2010

High stakes tests are what schools are measured by now, for better, worse or indifferent. While I think we as educators need to be held accountable for teaching the specified curriculum (which I do not always agree with content-wise), I struggle with my worth as an educator being measured by a fill-in-the-bubble sheet given to my students a solid 4 months+ after I have them in class.

Some years my scores are up; some years my scores are down. I take them all to heart, celebrating the highs and mourning the lows, wondering what I could have done differently.

Truthfully, those scores are little a reflection of me and my teaching, and more a reflection of those students, their innate intellect, and their mindset about school.

Some kids learn, soaking up knowledge like their very being depends on that nourishment. They come from every possible home situation, bringing along baggage too heavy for the average adult to carry, shouldered upon their young adolescent shoulders. Knowledge is their escape from reality, offering them an open window to a sunny place they long to grow.

Other students come from homes where school is considered their job, their reason for existing at this point in their lives, where expectations for success are high and unbreachable. These students never need a pencil or paper, or lunch money, or clean clothes. Even when their families struggle financially to make ends meet, educational needs are a priority.

But then, the ones the politicians accuse me of leaving behind fill the rest of the classroom. These are the students who come to class hungry, but not for knowledge. Instead, they seek acceptance and kindred spirits. They do not feel like they can learn, or worse, do not care if they can. Education is nothing in their mind. It doesn't offer them window to look out, because they are unable to see beyond today, beyond the walls of school, to any kind of future of success.

Some of these struggling students make a connection with a particular teacher or counselor and find help opening their window. These are the lucky ones.

Many more, come with their windows so tightly closed, often dealing with drug, alcohol or other abuse issues, that as a teacher, I struggle to help them. I can try, and try, and try, and sometimes, it seems, make a dent. More often, they are lost to me despite my efforts.

Other students simply do not come to school. We have no consequences for extreme absences, so we have students who miss 30, 40, even more, days a year. But yet, these students take the same bubble in test their peers do. And, those are the students who miss by choice, whether it be illness or just lackadaisical parenting. Others miss that many days because of suspensions. Either way, it is instructional time lost, that cannot be replicated.

The saddest students are those who come hungry, dirty, tired and without hope. The ones from homes destitute for sustenance. How can we expect those students to learn, retain knowledge and apply it, when their brains are deprived of nutrients?

Students come to class with nothing, no textbook, no pencil, no intention of learning. I can plan engaging lessons, work individually with them, try to connect with them on a personal level, but I simply cannot make them learn.

I don't want to leave them behind; I just can't figure out how to drag them along....

1 comment:

Mr. D said...

You might not see a change in those students you're dragging along--they might not do much work, or show up too much, or come close to passing your class. These are the kids that need you the most, and sometimes all you can do for them is just not give up. They've probably had a lot of people quit on them or tell them they're stupid and worthless. If they don't have a pencil or notebook, give one to them. Some teachers see this as coddling or lowering expectations, I think it's quite the opposite: you're raising the expectations, essentially telling them I'm not giving up on you, there's no way you're getting around it, no excuse that you can't try. Even if you don't do what you need to today, I'm still going to come back tomorrow and push you and believe in you..

It sounds like you have the right mindset already!