Wednesday, June 06, 2012

One of my duties as special ed teacher is to read tests to students. In theory, these are students who are labeled and have that as an accomodation in their IEP. In reality, most teachers encourage any struggling students to have their tests read to them, hoping that little perk will give them a boost to make success more likely or possible.

Some students use the bonus of having the test read, even asking me to repeat, slow down, clarify questions. Others, they just take up a chair, maybe filling in bubbles, maybe not. Nodding off halfway through the exam. Not bothering to even attempt the essay questions.

I struggle with the motivation, and lack thereof, of students. At high school level, just the motivation of passing the class, earning credit, and eventually, the diploma, should be a motivator to at least give the exam an honest attempt.

The faces of some students show the defeat as they walk in the door though. They've done so little for so long, not developed study skills to allow them to be successful, given up on themselves and the school, and know failure is in their future.

I like to think deep down they DO care, they do want to succeed. I like to think we've failed them more than they've failed themselves. I like to think there is hope on their horizon.

Of the nine students I read a world history test to this morning, maybe 3 of them gave it an honest shot. One was sure he did well because he studied for an entire HOUR this morning right before the test. Another wrote and wrote and wrote, on every essay question, pouring her knowledge onto the paper fervently. The last of the 3 who looked like they really gave it a shot, at least attempted every question.

The other six.... one slept through most of the test, not even bothering to write his name on the paper. Another finished quickly and insisted she had to go somewhere, and became beligerent when I wouldn't let her leave to wander halls. Another finished quickly, attempting none of the essay questions and sat gazing into outerspace the remainder of the time. Two girls were more interested in writing notes than the test. I took a cell phone away from a student texting during the exam.

Where have we failed them? Where can we un-fail them? How can we make them care?


jrd said...

Re. reading exams to kids. I've started using Audacity to record the exams before the students come in. They can proceed at their own pace if they need to hear the question and/or answers more than once-leaving the other students moving ahead or just waiting. The kids also seemed to stay more focused with headphones on.

Running In Sand said...

First of all, I imagine that it must be difficult to be as patient on a daily basis as you are, so I congratulate you.
What you've written regarding testing and student motivation certainly made me think. I believe that even if we think those students have given up, I agree at least on some level that we have to assure ourselves of the fact that they DO really care deep down.
Did we, as educators, fail them? Perhaps. Perhaps the timing was wrong, and the educators that could have been there to help weren't there when those students really needed that extra push. Maybe it's a matter of finding a way to connect with those students enough to explore what it is that motivates them to do anything. After all, I don't believe that school is for everybody. (Albert Einstein? Frank LLoyd Wright? Marvin Gaye? Jay-Z?) But can you make them care? Maybe not, and it's heartbreaking.

With that said, however, there are some basics that every child 'should' know. If we can send them off with at least some basic critical thinking skills to give them some level of competitiveness in the world then we've given them something important. You might not be able to get them to take their tests more seriously, but if you are able to connect with them enough to get them to open up and tell you what motivates them, perhaps that will reawaken them.
Just keep on doing! Thanks for the ponders!