Friday, July 22, 2005

And, Like a Rollercoaster....

You're up one day, and then the next something happens that just makes you want bang your head on the chalk board over and over and over.
After being happy (though not exuberantly so) yesterday, my students today (and yes, I know it's Friday) really frustrated me. It wasn't so much their behavior in class, as right after. See, on Tuesday, they will all be taking the Basic Standards Test in Reading, and I am working very hard to prepare them. As I have said before, many of them have told me they just don't care about the test, school, or anything.
So today they took a mock test in order to see if what we have been doing for the last four weeks has been sticking. Out of 31 kids, 10 received passing grades. Of those ten, only 4 got higher than 75% (which is considered passing for the BST). Now, I could go off on a rant about this, but that's not what's annoying me. Honestly, I expected these scores. What angered me was what happened after they found out their scores.
One girl in the second period class scored a 90%. Highest grade of all 31 kids. She was really proud of herself, and I honestly was proud of her too, because she had come a really long way in four weeks. Unfortunately, as soon as the kids found out that she had scored so well, they began ruthlessly teasing her. One kid called her "Teacher's Pet." That's not so bad. What made it worse was when they started talking about the sexual favors she must have exchanged and called her a traitor to the other kids as well as not being true to her race. That's right. Because the other kids had scored so low, and she didn't, that meant she wasn't, "black." Once again, I'm not kidding. They kept talking about how white her skin was, etc., etc. With so much being thrown at her, she started to cry. Well, I wasn't going to stand for it. I quickly shut down the kids who were causing the problems, and then I gave them a very evil punishment. I made them go out in the hall, I grabbed a few textbooks off the shelves, and they had to hold out their arms with the textbooks in their hands. If the books droppped, they would go to the office to be punished. If they managed to stand there with the books out for ten minutes, I would only chastise them. What happened, you ask? Two kids dropped the books right away and were sent to the office. As this was their fourth time there, they aren't coming back. One kid made it, and then he apologized to her. Did he mean it? I have no clue.
Yeah, Tuesday is going to be very hard for these kids. Most of them aren't going to get credit for the class, because they haven't been doing to work or showing up. They love to talk to each other all the time, but you can't talk at all during the BST, or you'll be thrown out. Think about that: five weeks of work and sitting in an incredibly hot building only to blow it on the day of the test. The whole reason you're there, gone. All because you couldn't be quiet for two hours.
If none of the numbers change drastically next week, this will be the final tally:
Period 1: 12 kids (lost ten from the first day). 5 kids will get credit for the class. Probably 2 will pass the BST.
Period 2: 19 kids (lost seven from the first day). 3 kids will get credit for the class. Probably 4, maybe 5 will pass the BST.
So, that means out of 31, 8 will get credit and 6 will pass the BST. That's LOW! It makes me feel like a bad teacher. Granted, I can only do so much, but it still frustrates me that it's happening on my watch.


Voix said...

I'll just throw in the word again -- it is totally not your fault. You've done your best, they've gotta take responsibility for their own business, and you can't force feed reading skills down their throats. You're a good teacher, I'm sure of it. You pay attention. Keep your chin up.

Admin Worm said...

Talk about ironic... Now it's Admin Worm trying to encourage YOU.

leab, do yourself and your students a favor: grab the Saturday Star-Trib and clip the article from the Business section entitled "Mentors, computer class give tough kids purpose." It focuses on an organization called "Osiris" ( that teaches "at risk" kids how to succeed. I didn't make it through the whole article yet, therefore I can't vouch for every idea expoused by the organization, but what I did read is encouraging.

Hell, perhaps the founders, Bill and Gail Roddy, would make an appearance in your classroom and give those kids an earful on how important it is to pull their heads out of their asses NOW and take advantage of their free education.

Glass half full, leab: four kids out of 31 got 75-plus, one got over 90%. Pat yourself-and the achieving students-on the back. They'll thank you by dedicating books to you 20 years down the road, or by mentioning you by name when Forbes Magazine asks them to "Name someone from your past who inspired you."

Side-note: as a Normandale Community College student, I am regularly appalled that most teachers use the dreaded curve when grading. I'm torn between what's more sickening: seeing someone who scores 30% on a test receiving a passing grade, or when I score an 89% and still get an "A". Regardless, it sounds as if your students truly earn their grades, whether they pass or fail. That's an important lesson to learn early in life, and the ones who earned those 75-plus scores will thank you for that always.

Finally, here's a question posed by someone who's admittedly never dealt with the types of situations you face every day: is there any way for you, or the school, to brainstorm a method whereby you make achievement seem...well, at least the kids who seem to thrive on failure? I don't pretend to have a useful idea for you, but if all attention were focused on those five kids who got 75-plus, without making the "failures" feel awful, maybe that would help them realize that a willingness to act intelligent isn't a Cardinal Sin.

That probably sounds more naive than it was intended to be, but I'm grasping for straws here.

Leab said...

Oh, I know.
I'm not trying to throw a pity party or anything, I'm just frustrated.
It all ends next week and then I get a few days to relax....And then the new school year starts.
On to happier things.