A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cruel to be kind?

How would you respond? Better yet, how do you think the teacher responded? Here are a few scenarios to discuss:

1. Erica enrolled in class a few weeks ago. She has a baby and has been kicked out of her home, and they are currently living in a shelter. She doesn't have to start school each day until 10 am because it is "hard for me to get to school any earlier, and I may be late to your class, too." Erica has been absent 75% of the time. She has yet to turn in any assignment, including ones that could be completed in class, and the last time she was given a quiz she returned it blank because she said she wasn't "ready."

2. Justin approached his teacher and expressed concern about his current grade. He admits to not doing the reading, and to procrastinating, but says that he hasn't added any activities that would explain his sudden inability to, um, "git 'er done," and yes, his teacher did wince mightily when that particular phraseology zoomed out of his mouth. When it was suggested that maybe he should start reading and and doing the assignments, he looked quizzical and said, "No, that can't be it."

3. Aaron has a severe chronic condition which usually causes its victims to have a life expectancy, on average, of 37 years. Aaron has also developed hypoglycemia and possibly a hernia. Aaron is gone quite a bit, but often the absences are unexcused, and when he comes to school, acts shocked that he has anything to make up, like getting a copy of notes or finding out what assignments were done. Aaron often eats candy for lunch or does not eat at all. When asked about his health, Aaron's mother states that it is actually really good. When told that there is an absolute deadline for grades to be done, Aaron is gone that day, and then gets the principal's permission to turn in three weeks' worth of work overnight, which the teacher is then required to evaluate and then manually override the grade.

4. Juanita is also gone from class a lot. The last four times she was gone she said it was because she was with someone in the hospital: her best friend, her brother, her grandma, and a neighbor.

What would you do?

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At 2/13/09, 5:24 PM, Blogger Ricochet said...

I loved the student who had been given an assignment four times, including mailing it to him. The day before the end of the semester he said he didn't want to do assignments on functions and factoring and polynomials. I pointed out that was what I had taught this semester and I wasn't making another assignment for him.

At 2/13/09, 6:33 PM, Blogger the learning teacher said...

I guess if I knew I'd documented all the students' inactivity/ not reading/ absences etc. (you know, in my free time), I'd just have to give the buggers whatever grade they'd earned. That's what the grade is: a record of a student's work. What they learn is not the same thing, but a grade's a grade.

At 2/13/09, 7:29 PM, OpenID lady said...

I'll tell you what, teaching elementary school is so much less complicated in this way than high school and college.

Of course, we aren't really allowed to keep them back, so we're part of the problem.

At 2/13/09, 7:39 PM, Anonymous afantaske said...

I would tell each of the students that they can make up ALL of their late assignments by taking the test (chapter test, unit test, whatever). And the score on the test would be used for each of the back assignments and quizzes leading up to the evaluation. Oh, and there would be a choice of three periods (days) that they would have to make it up. Otherwise it would be a zero (along with the other work of course). 20 years of teaching tells me that the students who are clueless will fail - the teacher only has one thing to grade (yeah) and the student is released from the self-created pressure OR the student will pass because he/she already knows the material but has played these games in the past.. and obviously didn't learn the 'intended lesson'. Long and short, I have one paper to grade, the student thinks they one upped me (until they get the grade) and administration is happy that the matter has been settled.

Use teaching time to teach the willing while giving the others a chance to reform.

At 2/13/09, 10:43 PM, Blogger Cheryl said...

As a 4th grade teacher, I love what lady said, because I think the current "social promotion" crap (pardon my French, but that's what it is) teaches kids very early on that nobody's serious about doing the work. And it IS part of, if not all of, the problem.

I would fail every last one of them. They can take the class over again and take it seriously.

At 2/14/09, 5:53 AM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

I would call the home of the last one and report those stories. In the highly unlikely event they were true, I would offer her some consideration.

The rest fail.

At 2/14/09, 6:52 AM, Blogger Kim said...

Shame on the principal! Maybe he should've had to grade the 3-weeks' worth of work.

At 2/14/09, 7:36 AM, Blogger Lking4truth said...

This sounds frustrating...and sometimes quite humorous. But in all seriousness, chronic non-compliance or chronic lack of motivation can be symptoms of a bigger problem, (other than just plain old laziness). I would refer these students (and their parents/caregiver) to a licensed therapist/counselor for an initial evaluation…..I ‘d also refer the principle to attend an educational class…something to the tune of: “Enabling Dependency in Students-DON’T Do This!!”

At 2/15/09, 1:19 PM, OpenID jd2718 said...

I'm with afantaske on this one, most of the way. I'd certainly give the test. I don't know that I would let it take the place of ALL of the work, but SOME? Certainly. Enough so that the test becomes the out - both for you and the student.


At 2/15/09, 8:38 PM, Blogger Lightly Seasoned said...

Ah, easy-peasy (don't try this at home, kids -- I AM a professional):

1. GED candidate. Hound the hell out of counselor every day until out of class and in an alternative program. Fail or Withdrawn.

2. Fail.

3. Sure, get permission from principal to turn it all in at the last minute. No skin off my nose since a student who hasn't done any work all semester won't do it all overnight. I'm "flexible" and the kid Fails. Bonus round: kid is child of school board member and you are untenured(BTDT).

4. Refer to social worker for counseling out of extreme concern for emotional well-being. Fail.

5. What? You mean none of these kids has an LD and "extended time" on their IEP?

(I like the high-stakes test solution. Might try that one.)

At 2/17/09, 5:17 PM, Anonymous MsWhite said...

You can't fool me, Ms. Cornelius; this is a trick question! The answer to all of these is...
It doesn't MATTER what I do, because the principal (or guidance counselor or superintendent's office) will change the student's grade under pressure from the parents (or social worker or court of public opinion). After all, if I had only worked harder, tried more interventions, or simply been a better teacher, the student wouldn't have failed in the first place!

Personal responsibility is a foreign concept in our society today - is it any wonder we're seeing the effects in our schools?

At 2/18/09, 9:07 PM, Blogger Mrs. T said...

Stopped reading at #1- my answer to that? She had a baby and she wasn't ready for that either, so take the damn quiz.

#2- Kid needs a big bowl of "shut up and do your work".

#3- ???? I'd say fail, but if you are just going to have to override that grade, why bother? How about giving "No Grade"- we have that option- it's a "G". Try it. Or, wait 3 weeks to grade the papers. Act shocked if you are told you have to have the grades in by a certain date. Be gone on that day.

#4- Maybe Juanita can have one of THEM teach her, then.


At 2/20/09, 4:36 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

See, there ARE no wrong answers!!!!!

But Ms White and Mrs T get special points for attitude.

Juanita's mother has been known to answer truthfully, then when Juanita gets home and relays her side, call back and change her story, BTW.

I like the high-stakes test thing. I have a kid right now who would like to do that-- until I pointed out that his avg would be even lower right now.


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