Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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.


S. Medina said...

I think you sound like a great teacher. I am a parent and have read some blogs that make me cringe and wonder what these people were even doing teaching with those negative attitudes. Your posts though, they are very constructive. Great information, and helpful insight.
Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

This post bothers me greatly. I think that your bigger concern should not be how it is effecting other students and this student being moved forward, but why is this student missing so much time. There must really be something wrong in this child's life that he or she is missing so much school, and maybe all it takes is for someone (like a teacher) to care enough to go the extra distance and help them. As a previous student who had a bad home life and illnesses. I was looked at by teachers as a problem and no one cared about how to help me just how to move me on. I hope that that these kids get someone that can help them and doesn't just get annoyed by their absences.

cossondra said...

Thank you for your comments. I do try to be reflective and constructive in my posts as well as in my teaching.

As far as the comment by 'anonymous', I don't look at these students as 'problems' but rather as something out of my control. I have tried working with parents, talking to students, trying to help students keep up, but sometimes, it is out of my control. I have no way to overcome these kinds of lapses in education. I wish I did.

I am but one hour of that child's day at school. I can care all I can and still not make an impact in the rest of their life. In that one hour, I cannot make up for all the information they have missed. It is impossible. I can offer them help outside of the school day, but for these students, that is not an option.

Until parents and students value being at school, until school is a place they choose to become a part of, my choices are limited. Maybe that sounds harsh but it is the reality. Just caring alone isn't enough to make up for everything they are missing when they are gone. If it were, the problem would be solved.