The part of teaching that frustrates me the VERY most is student absences. I don't think parents or students sometimes realize the impact being gone from school makes on the potential success of a child. Granted, we all have illnesses or emergencies that keep us home on occasions, but the chronic absences are overwhelming.
We are in the 32 week of our 36 week school year. I have one child who has missed 29 days, another 41, and even one with 56 absences. It seems each year, the problem becomes wider spread, impacting more and more children.
Yet, those students will move onto the next grade, regardless of the fact they have misses 6, 8, or even 11 weeks of school. Their absences represent more than numbers though; they represent missing information that child did not learn. In math classes in particular, this problem compounds itself exponentially, making it IMPOSSIBLE for that child to experience any success.
Today in prealgebra, we were working on balancing equations with variables on both sides of the equal sign. This task in and of itself is complex for many concretely thinking 8th graders. However, with a strong background in balancing simpler equations, operations with integers, and mathematical properties, most students grasp the process fairly easily with practice. For the students who have missed weeks of instruction and practice, stretched out over years of school, the process becomes completely irrelevant and impossible to master. It is like putting together a 1000 piece puzzle with no idea what the final product should look like.
As the teacher, I am at a complete loss. How do I push forward with students who are in attendance with a fairly regular record, but somehow not lose the ones who are years behind, but still get them ready for the next step in their mathematical education process? I don't.... sadly, I don't. The curriculum forces me to move forward, trying to drag them along as best I can, trying to balance 2x + 4 = 3(4x-6) + 6x while they don't even conceptually understand that -7 + 7 = 0.