Yesterday was a disaster, and I’m hoping (against all hope, I know) that today will be somewhat better.
I have these kids… In point of fact, I have thirteen freshmen and sophomores in my first period English class. The truth is that most of these kids are new to CHS and that some (I’m not sure how many, but I know of at least two) were homeschooled (not that that’s an excuse, I’m just sayin’). I’m willing to allow for the fact that these students might need a bit longer runway that most – time to get used to the unusual environment of CHS, time to get used to me, my teaching style, and my expectations for their work, and time to get used to, you know, working at all. I’m okay with that; I’m willing to taxi with these kids for quite a while. What I’m not willing to do is let them park on the frickin’ runway and hold up the rest of the planes lined up behind them.
Here’s the deal: I am going out of my way to make sure that the work I’m giving them is relevant and accessible. We’re reading a book that is not particularly challenging to actually read. Are the concepts and themes in the book complex and difficult? Sure, but the actual reading of the text is entirely manageable by your average 7th grader (and before you go telling me that Punkin’ Pie isn’t average, I’m not talking about her).
I’m putting Every. Single. Assignment. on our class website, with clear and explicit instructions for not only the work I want them to do, but how and when I want them to submit it. I tell the kids their homework assignments before they leave the room and I remind them to check the website. Still, they don’t do the work.
The other day, I made their morning free-write a question about how they – the kids sitting in their seats – can make the class better. What can they do for themselves – how can they change their habits or shift their attitudes – so they get more out of the time we spend together?
Most of them answered my question honestly (this boy handed me a sheet of paper with his name on it. Seriously). They freely admit that they think *I’M* doing everything right, and that their lack of participation is due to the fact that they just don’t care.
Take yesterday as an example. They’ve had several weeks to get through the prose of The Book Thief. We’ve been talking about it (off and on) since we started reading and, for the most part, the only participation has come from me and four students. Yesterday morning, I decided to see where they were in terms of plot comprehension (not theme or, you know, critical thinking, just tell-me-what-happened plot questions). About ten minutes into the test, I looked up from what I was doing to see a classroom full of deer-in-the-headlight, panic-stricken kids.
When I confronted them about it, EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of them admitted that they just hadn’t done the reading (well, that’s not entirely true – one kid IS doing the reading, and she awkwardly admitted that her fear wasn’t from not understanding the questions I asked, but from worrying that she’d not have enough time to answer the questions to the extent that she was satisfied she’d done well. Oh, and this kid? She skipped 8th grade to enter CHS as a freshman. She’s a year younger than the next-youngest kid in the class). One girl, bless her heart, even admitted that she was only on page 80. They were supposed to be up to page 457 by yesterday.
I am just about at wits’ end with this class. I do not want to turn into the Wicked Bitch of the East, handing out detentions and letters home to parents, but I really do think that parents need to know exactly WHY their students are failing my class. I’ve run my assignments past my boss and my colleagues, and the unanimous agreement is that what I’m asking for is not at all unreasonable. In fact, several of my coworkers have commented that student apathy is undermining their attempts to run productive classes, as well.
What I’m saying here is that I’m reasonably confident that I’m doing my job.
I will not promote students who do not demonstrate that they met the standards and expectations for the class. If the current conditions persist, I have the feeling that I’m going to be seeing a lot of students in English I/II again next year