Thursday, November 26, 2015

A tale of 2 students

Last night I got a call from a student. Haven't thought about him in 2 years, since he dropped out of my class and out of school.

He is one of those who makes bad decision after bad decision, convinced that he is so charming that the rest of us losers won't impede whatever progress he sees himself accomplishing.

He wanted to borrow $50. Maybe I should say "borrow". I took him the money because of what he said next. His family wouldn't help him and he is living in his car.

I have to be close to the bottom of his list. I have no delusions that I was his favorite teacher - or favorite anything. I cannot imagine being in a position that my family and friends have written me off.

So I took him the money. He wasn't in the parking lot he said he would be in. Apparently he had been involved in a fight and been told to leave. {while he was waiting for me to bring him money. Couldn't stay out of throuble for that short period of time.] So I gave the money to the manager of the restaurant where he hangs out and asked her to pass it along. And I went home.

Maybe he will get the money. Maybe he will turn his life around. Maybe not. But, beyond prayers, I have nothing else for him.

So keep him in your prayers.

If I could have talked with him, would I have told him what I was thinking on the way over? Get a job. Get your GED. Grow up. Lose the attitude and drugs. Mend your fences.

Probably not.

I contrast this with another student who traveled for several hours to help one of my current students, who gave of self to help someone who is unknown and hurting.

I know which person I would rather be. And which one I would rather have in my life.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Alternate universe

Teaching in high school is like living among aliens - or existing in an alternate universe with very different rules.

Yesterday a student told me to commit a physically impossible act on myself, using (of course) much shorter words. Since it was done anonymously, there isn't much to do except move on. I know it was one of a handful of students who are failing and refuse help. They fail to understand certain things: they need help; it is being offered and refused; they don't have to like me any more than I have to like them (which doesn't change that I will help them if they let me); and - whether they get the help from me or someone else, they still have to pass the math class to graduate.

This was followed today by a heartfelt thank you from a student who was never in a class of mine - someone I had to chase out of class everyday because I taught her friend. I always liked her, we are friends on facebook - and I was honored to get thanks when I did nothing.

I guess it all about balance.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The death of public education

I am a firm believer in public education. My ancestors not only believed in it but made it a part of their lives, to the point I think it is part of my DNA.

I had two students skip my class this week and then (such a surprise) lie about why - in a way I could verify was a lie. So one threatened to sue me. Go for it.

He continued to argue with me anytime I tried to speak until I finally asked him what he wanted. "What do you mean?"

We can argue over everything I say (as far as I am concerned you win, I am not arguing anymore)or I can teach you. These are incompatible goals.

So, now I start documenting everything - instead of focusing on teaching.

What a waste.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Shaking my head

A student was being particularly annoying, so I told him to cease and desist. He asked me what language that was.

A teacher has the following on her wall. In her handwriting: "Immigrants leave their country's and move to the United States." "Students come to the school and talk to the principle." "Numonics can help you learn"


Both are native born, native speakers.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Making it easier to graduate III

Part of the reason school play this stupid game, lowering the bar to "help" kids earn their diplomas, is the price the schools pay if they don't meet certain standards.

I have jumped through the school improvement grant phase, the title I phase. Both with all the requirements the state can add to a burdensome workload.

Now our governor has set up another hurdle. If a district does not meet the state's standards, the state will step in and take it over.

Yep, ought to work well.

Did I mention that it has been almost a decade since the state funded the schools to the amount they are required to by law?

That couldn't possibly affect anything.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Making it easier to graduate II

I read this today

Graduation rates alone are not the only thing that makes a good high school. In fact, as a former NYC high school teacher I am very wary of schools with rates that are too high. I have seen students pushed through and graduated that can barely read and do arithmetic. Regents are skewed so that a 65 on an algebra regents is the equivalent of 29 (or less) raw points. Students that don't pass the first time have the options of doing a few online problems or going to a two week after school program to make up the course they missed. Teachers are pressured to pass everyone. People should wonder why special needs students with 70 IQs are suddenly getting regents diplomas. A better guide might be a look at courses offered and the number of students taking these courses. Of course a college acceptance is important but knowing if these students will have to take and retake remediation before they can begin a path to a degree is also important, probably more important.

It is from someone in a very different state from the one I live in. One of those states who look down on us down here in the backward South. And yet, we have the same problem.

I am teaching Juniors - or should be teaching Juniors, since it is a Junior math class. There are a lot of should-be Seniors in the class - and in order to keep that holy graduation rate high, these kids are taking 2 and 3 math classes this year. Should it come as a surprise that the failure rate is high - and that the students don't feel that they have to do ANYTHING in order to pass. Math is so much simpler when you practice it.

They think they can play on their phones, talk, skip and pass.

I went down the list of things they could do outside of class to raise their grade to be interrupted by a student with an important question: what can he do to raise his grade? (So I ran through the exact same list again.)

And the principal's first question to me when he saw the grades? What are you doing, Ricochet, to help them?

But let me go back to the ones take 2 - or 3 - math classes at the same time. Some are taking them on line. They do not care about learning the math - they just guess ABCD and hope for the best. Since math (in high school especially) is cumulative - well, they are a few tools short in their toolbox to be successful.

I love math. I mostly love teaching. I feel like I am perpetuating a fraud. Do I listen to my conscience and fail them, knowing that is the grade they deserve, and find myself booted out, with all the financial implications to me that would involve. Or do I continue spoon feeding them and lowering the bar knowing I reach maybe 1 in twenty to actually learn something?

I am glad their are only a few more years left to agonize over that.