Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Problem Children

No matter how many schools get closed or how many teachers lose their jobs, there will always be problem children, the ones that can't or won't do what is expected of them.  This is a fact that no one with a modicum of intelligence would dispute.

Problem children always have a way of finding their way onto my class rosters.  My first goal with these kids is to keep them coming to class and to find a way to get them interested in the topic.  Do I have to put up with some noise and quite a bit of distracting behavior along the way?  To quote Sarah Palin, "You betcha."  It isn't easy.  I often go home with a headache, but when I see the end results, I am happy with what I did.

I've been praising the value of my small ninth period class, but it wasn't until this week that I realized how troubled some of these kids also are.  We just finished a unit on radicals and Rita told me I should be thrilled she is still coming to class.  Last year she walked out after the first day of radicals and never went back.  Her teacher never looked for her.  (Rita got an 80 on the test dealing with this topic.)  Missie told me the 70 she got on her last test was the first math test she passed since eighth grade and cut the class all the time.  Jean, who said she hates math, has now said math is her favorite class of the day.  Karrie stopped cutting, started doing homework and willingly works with a tutor during her resource room period.  Tara glowed from ear to ear when I told her she was going on the principal's student of the month bulletin board.  Tara failed math all last year.  Jodie would come to class spitting bullets because I called her mom every time she cut.  Now, she comes in smiling, homework in hand and determined to pass. Tara got a 90 on the last test. 

I guess what I am trying to say is running a quiet class that begins on time, where kids do exactly as they are supposed to do is not in the best interests of all students.  Some kids need that little bit of chaos in the beginning before they settle down to work.  It is better to have them engaged and learning for 38 minutes than to have them wandering the streets and the halls for the entire 45 minutes.

Mr. AP praises the teachers who run the quiet, organized classrooms.  He holds them up as the models, the ones we should all strive to be like.  (He also helps them by removing difficult kids, but that is a whole different story.)  These are the teachers my kids had last year.  Problem Boy had one of those teachers.  The teacher told me how happy he was when Problem Boy stopped coming to class.  These are the kids that were lost.  These are the teachers with the best statistics in their classes but they are also the teachers who statistics are hurting the overall school.

My stats will be better this year as the Integrated Algebra Regents is an easy exam to pass, but that doesn't matter to me.  What matters is seeing my students come to class, participating and learning.   I'll deal with the chaos and the noise because not to deal with it means losing kids that should not be lost.


Anonymous said...

great...I wish I had a math teacher like you. Sounds like the students are really learning, even in the classes that pose the most the challenges. You know what they need and want and are willing to give it to them.

Michael Dunn said...

Administrators tend to be stuck in a rigid one size fits all model for teachers. Chaos can be invigorating, instructive and inspiring, too, as long as you know how to handle it. Not all teachers do, of course. When student teaching years ago, I took over a class from a master teacher who allowed her students to walk all over her. They were rude, obnoxious and not learning much.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, as a teacher who works with 4 and 5 year olds, I encourage interaction through learning when they are working at their tables or centers. Then again, in a pre-k classroom, children are supposed to be interactive to enhance on their social skills. I would not be doing my job effectively if I let the kids sit quietly working at their tables.