Friday, October 26, 2007

Revelations About My Students And Other Things

Parent teacher conferences went great this year. I met some really fantastic parents, but that did not surprise me. This year, I have really good classes. My lowest level is a first term Math B class. Even though some of the kids are not good at math (and really don't like it), they are mostly juniors and did pass four terms of Math A to get here. I do have a few sophomores and freshman mixed in. Those kids are the super stars of the class.

I met Joe's mom and dad last night. Joe is a pip. I had him last year and he drove me crazy the entire year. This year, I found him misprogrammed for math, walked him to his counselor and got him into the right class. I told her to keep him away from Mr. A. Mr. A is a good teacher, but his English is not that great and he wouldn't give Joe the extra "kick in the butt" to get him to pass. Of course, Joe ended up in Mr. A's class. I managed to do some quick maneuvering and got Joe placed in my class. Joe is still driving me crazy and I have spoken to his mom quite a bit. Meeting his parents, I understood why I liked this kid so much. His mom took total control and firmly (but lovingly) put him in his place. His dad just sat there, quietly agreeing with her. Joe came into class today and worked hard, for the first time.

I also met Viv's mom again. Viv has been in my class 4 out of 5 terms. Viv is a weak student and her mom knows that I have always given 200% when it comes to getting her daughter to succeed. Viv decided in the beginning of this year that Math B was going to be hard and since she was not good in math, it was fine for her to fail. Luckily her mom does not agree and Viv was firmly (and lovingly) put in her place.

Kip's mom told me that he was in a bad accident last year and missed most of the school year. After fighting the system, she managed to get him a home school teacher. She said she doesn't know how he passed. The Math A regents is an easy test to pass and shows no knowledge. She spent hours talking to guidance. The teachers were never notified and although she tried to get him into an easier, more useful class, was unsuccessful. I sent her to the head of guidance. I don't know if she will be able to get him changed. It seems that there are no seats left in any of the intermediate algebra classes.
Sara graduated in June. She came back to parent-teacher conferences to checkup on her younger sister and came to visit me. I heard the usual complaints about the college math teachers (they are not as loving as high school teachers). It felt good to hear that her notes from last year were her "bible" and the A she was running was due to the stuff she learned last year. I had also suggested to her that she start a Muslim-Jewish Club in college. My school is so multicultural it was a joy to watch the different religions get along so well. I know this girl has it in her to bring about world peace (or at least start a real world peace process.) She told me she is actually doing that, and it is all because of my suggestion.

This brings me to a problem I discovered this week. I found a girl sitting in the wrong class. This sweet girl is failing. She is a senior and needs math to graduate. I went to her counselor. Her counselor said there is no where to put her, all the correct classes are filled. Too bad she didn't program her correctly in the first place. Even if this kid manages to pass, the skills she learned this term will not help her in college. She needs to hone her algebra. Proofs will do nothing for her.

Another kid realized herself that she had been misprogrammed (she never finished taking Math A). Her counselor told her to stick it out for first marking period to see how she would do. The poor kid has failed every test. Now she will be transferred, but she will be behind two months in her new class.

The guidance staff in my school have enormous case loads. Teachers have large classes. Guidance staff have offices, telephones and computers. Teachers carry their offices on their backs. Guidance counselors get paid more than teachers. Teachers should not have to do the guidance counselor's job. Someone needs to stand up and take responsibility for the classes the kids are in and it should not be the teachers. Yet, we will be judged for the kids success or failure. Our paychecks will include merit pay for successes we have with these kids. Yet, we go the extra mile, find out that they are not sitting in the class they should be in, and there is nothing we can do about the problem.


jonathan said...

I blogged this too. I get such a boost of energy coming out of parent-teacher conferences...

Ms. Tsouris said...

I thanked the parents for their time and told them there is a direct correlation between being involved with your child's education and their success as students. I jumped for joy (no exaggeration) when parents of very at risk freshmen showed up and I was able to speak with them!! I am definitely more energized after this open school night and afternoon. We hate to be there, but once a parent shows up we talk, and we are all on the same page about their kid, it's an inspiration to continue to teach and advocate for our students.

windhover said...

In my old school our guidance counselor couldn't do her job to save her life, and she had fewer than 80 students to program and counsel. Many of the teachers had to ask her to fix students'programs, so they would be where they belonged. This went on constantly. Our students would complain about her constantly. I shudder to think of how many students were royally screwed by her,and are going to be continuously screwed by her. Too bad the system doesn't go after people who really don't know how to do their job!!!!