Thoughts and Meditations


I’m working on tallying the final grades for the Foundations class. I can’t put a lid on it just yet – I’ve still got kids scrambling against a Wednesday deadline to get computer-based work to me – but the grades I do have at this point are not at all encouraging.

I offered the entire class a good half-hour review session before I handed out the final – an offer to which they most decidedly did not avail themselves. I got a few good questions, mostly from the same two students who, more than anything else, I think, just wanted to start thinking about grammar before they jumped into the test. At one point, one of them asked what prepositions are, so I wrote “PREPOSITION” on the board and underlined the POSITION part of the word, then asked them what prepositions are. “OH!” one of them exclaimed, “You did that in class before! Prepositions tell you where something is!”

“YES!” I said, “Now give me an example.”

I got some good examples; over, under, around, through, in, on, between. They were groovin’ with prepositions.

How many of them do you think got it right on the test? Go on, guess. Out of 17 students, how many could correctly identify a preposition?

Give up?

Six. Six out of seventeen students could identify a preposition, five minutes after we put a dozen examples of them on the board.

I’m trying to decide how I feel about all this. The biggest part of me – the part that takes immense pride in the work I do and that believes I do that work extremely well – has absolutely no feelings of responsibility for the fact that the better part of the class is likely to come away with failing grades. I taught a good class. I taught a fun class – at least, as fun as a grammar class can really be. I engaged more than one learning style. I offered up tricks and mnemonics and sang them Schoolhouse Rock songs. I drilled and illustrated and gave them the Vulcan greeting. I made myself available to them for extra help and was as enthusiastic and encouraging as I know how to be. Their failure is not my failure.

The other, much smaller, part of me thinks that there’s got to be some blame for the students’ poor performance to be laid at my doorstep. Sure, the class duration was too short and the students are the “children left behind” – the ones who have fallen through the proverbial cracks for their entire academic lives – but there’s a little voice in the back of my head that’s asking if I truly did all I could do.

If I’m to answer that voice honestly, I would say that, yes: given the time and the resources I had available to me, I did the best I could do. Coming to grips with the fact that my best wasn’t enough is another matter altogether, though.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Thoughts and Meditations

  1. It’s always excruciating to watch someone fail to use the tools they’ve been given. Especially if you’re the one handing them out.

  2. Well said, Kizz.

    I really have to shake myself to keep from thinking ‘well, it’s too late for this lot anyway’ since they’ve gotten so far(!) with no grasp of language or study habits.

    It’s sad for them and frustrating for you.

    -Blue

  3. Anonymous

    Toward the end of last year, I e-mailed administrators and department chairs explaining everything I had done to prevent so many of my kids from failing. I think one of the responses I got back might be relevant here:

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t hold his head under long enough to make a difference.

  4. Oh, I LIKE that! That’s a GREAT sentiment! Thanks for that – believe it or not, it’s REALLY encouraging.

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