Monday, October 20, 2008
Departmental meetings took place today. Mr. AP was his wonderful, warm self. He went on and on about how we should not give kids 55's if they are failing. Instead we should give them their true averages. I hate this idea. It is bad enough to have a kid fail, but why should we rub salt in their wounds by giving such a low grade? The powers that be in my school believe that since a 55 is only 10 points below passing, anyone who gets a 55 can pass. Suit changed every 55 to a 65 in June to move them all ahead. With this theory, we should just change the 65 passing grade to a 55 passing grade. Then, we can pass everyone with 45's because they would only be 10 points below passing. After we try this for a while, we can change the passing to 45 and keep going until everyone who breathes passes. Oh wait, this is already being done--just look at the raw scores and the equated percentages on the New York State Regents exams.
Now, because everyone has passed, everyone is taking geometry. The kids can't do the work, they just don't have the skills. Their taking geometry would be the equivalent of asking me to take a course in Nuclear Physics. To compensate for this, we are being told to "dummy down" the course. Those words are not being used, but we all know the meaning of what we have been told to do.
Years ago, when I was a newbie teacher and even years earlier, when I was a student, I learned that in geometry, nothing is ASSUMED because when you ASSUME you make an ASS out of U and ME. Mr. AP is telling us to get kids to draw conclusions by looking at pictures of lines and stating which ones are parallel and which ones are perpendicular from the way they look. Ridiculous! I can't draw a straight line to save my life and I spend half my teaching time telling them that if it's not given, its not true. Mr. AP is also telling us to have kids measure paper to find the midpoints (most of these kids can't use a ruler and finding the middle of an 8.5" by 11" paper is going to be impossible.) We also spend quite a bit of time teaching constructions with a compass and a straight edge. We argue that a ruler and a protractor are not good enough to get the measurements correct. Now, he is going backwards.
Mr. AP claims that you can't teach proofs until the kids understand the concepts. This is true. But how far back can we go in one semester? My son is a computer engineer. I look at his computer screen and have no clue what he is doing and even when he tries explaining his work to me, I am lost. I can never pick up in a short time what he has spent years learning. These kids are in the same situation. At this time, I can't understand his computer programming any better than they can understand geometry. I'm not incapable of learning, I just don't have the background and neither do these kids. Maybe I can learn the stuff at some time in the future as they might learn to master math then too.
It is time to teach kids on a level they can understand and master. It is time to stop fudging the courses to make everyone believe they can do it all.