Saturday, March 03, 2007

It's 3 a.m., and I want to go to bed...**

I'm tired. It's 3:23 in the morning. I visited Dennis's blog and got in on the non-teacher criticism of teachers debate. I'm not sure if my response to his post was coherent, but I'm okay with it if it isn't. Even English teachers can have bad days.

I'm not sure what I'm doing awake at 3 a.m. I know the dog kicked me, but usually I send him back to his bed and fall back asleep. But I can't tonight. My mind is racing, and I think it's going to make me nuts.

I figured rough quarter grades this afternoon. Most of my students are doing leaps and bounds better than they were at the beginning of the year. I even have several of my lower-tracked students I'd feel comfortable bumping up to the average track next year. They've worked so hard and made so much progress. But I have a couple students I'm really worried about.

One hasn't passed an English class since 5th grade. At the middle school, students can fail a class and still be passed on to the next grade. This particular student dislikes English, and thus chose to fail it. So, the result is a young man with above-average intelligence, but no basic English skills. Because of his ability-level, he's in an average class; however, he doesn't have the same skill-sets or the same drive as my other students. He squeaked by last semester with a D-, but I'm afraid that won't happen this semester. If he'd do the work of the class, I could work with him. But he doesn't. He finds creative ways to hide the fact that he's sleeping in class instead of paying attention. I call on him constantly and make him sit as close to me as he can; however, he still finds a way to ignore everything going on in the room. I want to see him pass, but I don't know how to help him.

I have several who miss several days per week. They have doctor's notes but miss so much school they can't keep up. I give extended schedules so they have deadlines of major assignments; however, the students miss class and don't get necessary information...then don't understand the homework assignments. Again, I'm at a loss.

Then there's that class. I think most teachers have that one class that simply annoys the snot out of them...I have mine. Because of tracking, these students come out of lower-level math and science classes, and many times at my school, lower-level means behavior problems. So, they all filter out into my English class. Individually I love them all, but as a class, they make me nuts. I have one student who's the ring-leader of them all. I've found that if I can keep him busy, I'm fine, but he's very apathetic when it comes to, it's difficult to keep him busy.

The one who really is keeping me awake, however, isn't failing. Actually, he is one of my lower-tracked monsters who's finally realized the importance of education...a little late, but better late than never. He wants to go to a Christian college and become a minister; however, because he's in the lower-tracked English class, he's going to have a difficult time getting into college and also succeeding in a college English class. So, I've told him I'll work with him before school twice a week. We'll really work on his writing skills...teach him those skills that he needs to do well. He's also going to have extra outside reading...more difficult than what he's getting right now. He's agreed to this, and I'm drafting up a contract for him to sign saying that if I'm putting in the extra hours, then he'll put in the extra work.
If I didn't think he'd put in the extra effort, I wouldn't have agreed to help him. What I'm more nervous about is that I'll fail him. He is banking on this. He wants to succeed, and I want to see him succeed. But what if he doesn't? I know that's not the attitude to have going into this, but I just don't want to send him up to a higher-tracked class next year and have him fail miserably. That would be such a blow to his self-esteem...not to mention all the work he's putting in.
So, that's the real reason I'm up at 3 a.m. I'm researching ways to teach basic writing skills. In the classroom, I use the "Revise, revise, revise" strategy...and that works, but I'm trying to see if there's something more. I suppose I'm looking for that magic know the one that won't fail?

So, back to Googling "magic solution+writing."

**title taken from Of a Revolution (O.A.R.) "Night Shift"** Song title as blog title idea from Leesepea. I didn't mean to steal her idea; however, that song is stuck in my head...although it's nearly 4 a.m. now.


Anonymous said...

Hats off to you for putting in the extra time to help a motivated student! While I don't have a magical solution, I do know of a great resource put out by WA state just for this purpose. It's designed with the intention of getting kids up to WA standards, but if you ask me, it's just good stuff for teaching writing. The lessons are in PowerPoint format and all the support materials (in Word) are provided. Check it out - it could save you from having to create from scratch. Good luck!

Tara W. said...

Wow, I admire your hard work to help a student achieve great things. The thing I can't get past in your blog is that a student can go on to the next grade without passing a subject. I just get so frustrated with all the "new ways" to increase student performance that don't work (ie Standardized testing, NCLB act, etc.). Yet has anyone (as in someone in our government) thought that maybe the answer to increasing student achievement may actually be to require students to PASS certain subjects in order to move on to the next grade? Aaauugghh! I can't believe that our school system doesn't require students to pass the basics (English, math, science, social studies) in order to graduate from High School. No wonder over 70% of College students can't place the Civil War in the correct CENTURY!

Anyways, kudos to you as a teacher who is committed to helping all your students succeed. Hopefully your students will recognize the importance of English class!

Mr. Fuller said...

Dear Anonymous Teacher,

I stumbled over your blog for the first time tonight and have thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts. I'm not much of a blogger--at least I havn't been in the past--but reading your musings have been so warming and comforting that I think I will make blogging a hobby of mine. It must have been God's will.

I too am an English teacher. I teach at a high school in Killeen, Texas that caters mostly to military dependents. I believe I can feel your pain when it comes to the "lower level" students; most of them can learn anything if we can just find a way to motivate them to do so, but that's where I experience my own failure.

I have similar issues with really bright students who I hate to fail, but if they don't do the work, I can't see where I have any other choice. I almost want to pass them because I think they can do well in the world, but then I would have to carry the weight of them being ill prepared because of an inability to communicate in their own language. How to motivate them is the question that I feel I may forever be in search of an answer.

I also read some of the replies to your postings. It seems that some readers do not appreciate your thoughts so well. It's ashamed that some people don't understand what it takes to be a teacher, and what a teacher actually experiences on the frontlines of our country's future. Teaching is one hell of a thankless job, and being a combat veteran such as myself, I believe I can testify that I thought I'd seen it all until I stepped into a classroom.

Keep up the good work, don't ever quit, and stay tough.


Amy said...

I have one of those classes, for sure. My 3rd hour class, juniors, are just a bundle of joy most days (yes, that's sarcasm). As individuals, they're good kids, but as a group they're HORRID.

SRogis said...

Hopefully you have gotten some sleep since this post! I just wanted to commend you on your work with the student who wants to become a minister- I really like the idea of using a contract in that situation. He sounds like a student who is at least attentive to his future and serious about his goals, and I think having a contract for the extra work he needs to achieve his goals is not only a great way to get him to commit to learning, but also good for communicating that you are serious and committed to helping him succeed as well. If he has had trouble in the past, this is probably a great validation to him that he and his goals are worth your time and effort. The best of luck to you in helping him- he will hopefully get the hang of it by the end of this school year, and then you can get more sleep- you will need it to deal with 'that' class!