Redneck Review

Saturday, September 24, 2005

When To Give Up

Here's another post that could be controversial. Depends which
side of the educational fence you are on. And I don't mind one bit
to end a sentence with a preposition, or start a sentence with and.
Or use sentence fragments. But that's not what this post is about.

At our Inservice yesterday, we got into a discussion of how much
we should try to help the kids who don't respond or make any effort.
We talked about a plan to hold middle school kids accountable for
their grades. They don't have the joy of learning found in elementary
kids, and we can't hold credits over their heads like we do with the
high school kids.

The sample plan is an afterschool program for kids failing two or
more core classes. They would have to go twice a week, from 3:00
to 5:00. One teacher would supervise. Core teachers would come
in for 30 minutes each day. Transportation home would be provided.
Those who don't show up as scheduled would receive in-school
suspension. Sounds good, right? But we were asked to play the
Devil's Advocates. To think of arguments why this program might
not fly.

Devil One pointed out that teachers should not have to stay after
school to raise other people's children. It has become a never-ending
task. We feed them breakfast, lunch, and supper. When are we
supposed to raise our families? Our kids go to bed at 8:00 pm. If
we work until 5:00, then we have to drive home, make supper,
check homework, give baths, etc. Why should we have to take
time away from our own kids? Many people entered teaching not
only to help kids, but to have time to raise their own families.

Devil Two said that the program would entail a lot of teacher hours
for the same few kids who are always going to refuse to do work.
As an example, suppose this was a military operation. Why should
we risk 25 men to save two? Especially when the two may not even
want to be saved, and if saving them was virtually impossible. What
if the odds that the two coming back to the world and leading lives
productive to society were almost zero? Why risk all that manpower?

Devil Three asked how many kids we have who would rather be
at school than at home. At school they would get attention. At home,
there may not even be anyone else there. Would some kids continue
to fail just so they could get attention after school?

Devil Four said that the teacher would be nuts by 5:00, what with
having 3 grade levels and 4 subject areas, which means possibly
12 different lessons to help with. (Hey, I do that every day. And
we all know I'm looney. But you get used to it.)

Devil Five questioned that since no late work is accepted, how
can students progress without a foundation in the subject (such as
math or language) when the teacher will be too busy to give remedial

Devil Six pointed out that this task should not be wished on your
worst enemy. It will be like a detention camp, because the kids will
be the ones who refuse to work in the normal classroom setting. Why
would they be good after school with one teacher, and all of their
trouble-making cronies to entertain?

Devil Seven said that it is unfair to expect teachers to do this for no
compensation. A few are on Career Ladder, and can use the hours.
Others have not taught long enough to be on Career Ladder. Why
should they have to do it for free?

Devil Eight pointed out that we already have programs to help the
kids who are behind. It is not our fault they do not respond. We
had tutoring 4 days a week after school last year, but the kids didn't
come. Teachers offer bonus work regularly, but the kids won't do
it. Why should we give them another chance that they won't take
advantage of?

Devil Nine asked if the school board would support the decision
if the student who had to attend on a game night was a star athlete.

Devil Ten asked if the teachers who gave a higher percentage of
failing grades would be questioned about their teaching methods.
What if the teachers lowered their standards, just so they wouldn't
have so many kids failing, so they wouldn't have to stay after to help?

Devil Eleven said, "I will do it if everyone else agrees that we should.
I would never refuse to do my part of the job, because it means that
another one of my colleagues would have to take up my slack."

So where should we draw the line? We can not save every student.
Society can not rehabilitate every criminal. A certain percentage are
just not going to fit into the mold. At what point should we cut our
losses and concentrate on the borderline kids who will make an
effort? How much more grease should we put on these squeaky
wheels? How many chances should they get? How many man-
hours should we devote to them?

As you can see, some good points were made. We are very good
at being Devils.


  • At 12:06 AM, Blogger deadpanann said…

    One important thing that teachers rarely realize is that those students who we perceive to be completely apathetic are often paying more attention than you could imagine, regardless of whether they're *trying,* and simply get off on the attention they get by portraying themselves as losers. It's smart of them, if you think about it. They're able to take information in and appear to be taking nothing in, thus meeting two separate needs simultaneously while being perceived as not trying to achieve anything, which is really great when you're 15. I was one of those kids. It wasn't a conscious decision, but in retrospect I can see exactly what was going on and why I was the way I was.

    There are things going on in these kids' lives--serious things, far more significant than the few things they actually tell us about (all of which are hard to take seriously at all.) I didn't tell anyone about the things that I had to deal with, so they couldn't reasonably be expected to know, and I don't know why I should think the situation is so different for the kids I now deal with on a daily basis. Kids have secrets, and some of them are heavy secrets. Mine were real burdens that I had to deal with at the same time that I was being asked to learn the quadratic equation. In the big picture of the amount of shit I had to deal with, academics were hardly the top priority.

    At the same time, I can remember a lot of details from classes that I didn't do jack shit in, and the teachers had written me off in most cases.

    My point is not that we should keep creating special "second chance" opportunities for these kids. My point is that they're probably getting more out of the first chance than we can see. We measure progress in terms of test scores. Sometimes in our efforts to reach every child, we forget that we don't know what's really, really going on--and that we WON'T know for years how much a kid is really absorbing, if ever. Just because things don't appear to be textbook examples of progress, that doesn't mean that nothing's going on under the surface or behind the scenes--however you want to look at it (or not look at it.) I made personal progress towards intellectual independence and simultaneously made minimal progress academically. The two are not always connected.

    The real crime is that the government's and the public's perceptions of teachers depend 99% on a test score that ultimately means jack nothing.

  • At 12:08 AM, Blogger deadpanann said…

    What I meant to say is that you're wasting your time on this education stuff when there's a true cause that needs your support-----Fight sobriety now!!!

  • At 12:34 AM, Blogger Dave in Ardmore said…

    I believe that the parents need to be held at least somewhat accountable for the fact that their kids are merely filling a seat. I am a firm believer in you reap what you sow. If the kids are apathetic to the educational process then their parents probably do not give a tinker's damn either. Lets line 'em all up and take turns kicking them in the nuts (the parents not the students).

  • At 1:56 PM, Blogger jules said…

    That's an awful lot of devils at your school! And they made valid points. At what point do we say, enough is enough? I don't know. The No Child Left Behind is a noble thought, but not translating well for the teachers in the trenches. I'm trying to finish my teaching degree now that my kids are grown. I'm 45 and almost ready for the student teaching, but man, am I having second thoughts. I've worked as an aide the past three years just to see if education was where I wanted to be, and I'm becoming less and less certain every day.

  • At 2:17 PM, Blogger Hillbilly Mom said…

    I teach the At-Risk kids. I am already their second chance. I have some of them year after year. I can see big changes in them, even though their grades don't always show much improvement.

    I have had kids tell me they wouldn't have graduated without my class. With one it was helping him study for the US and MO constitution tests that he had to take senior year, cause he hadn't passed them when he should. Another said he couldn't understand the algebra until I explained it. One said she always knew she had that 50 minutes a day when she could be herself and nobody would pick on her. One said it was a relaxed place where he could have someone listen to him. Another said she was afraid to ask her teachers things, but that she knew I would check on it for her.

    They all get something different from my class. But sometimes the core teachers have stepped in and had a hissy fit that the same kids are in there and not improving. Then we have a big housecleaning, and some kids think I don't want them, and they add others who technically don't have grades low enough to be placed there.

    I've had kids that I removed for discipline reasons ask to get back in, after they've grown up a little. I have agreed to this with every student but one, yet sometimes the counselor or principal won't let some back in. I can see no rhyme nor reason to it. At times, it seems like a personal issue with some of the students.

    So...I do the best I can. But I personally don't think two days after school for these kids will be worth the teacher manpower it entails. I personally think it needs to be a discipline issue for not turning in work. Hey, they get ISS if they don't dress out 3 times in PE. Why can't they get ISS if they don't turn in 3 assignments. Isn't that just as important as participating in PE?

    At one of my previous middle schools, they made parents come in and sit beside their little troublemakers all day, just to see what they were up to. Those kids shaped up fast. All it took was a threat to call the parent, and they straighted up because they knew we would. The parents have to have some accountability. We can not raise their children for them, as much as they would like to blame us when they don't turn out well.

    Yes, we do have a lot of faculty Devils at our school. But that building ALWAYS pulls together to do what is best for the kids. Not liking something does not mean that the Devils don't give 100% to what needs to be done. We have done countless afterschool hours with no pay over the years. But it's good to get things out so you don't have to snark about it secretly.


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