Sunday, January 22, 2012


I was supposed to teach a pre-calculus class this term but after registration, I was given a remedial class. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the lower end work and I definitely don't have anything against the students but teaching this class is sometimes so depressing.

A remedy should heal, and should right a wrong.  But, how do you fix wrongs wrought by twelve years of inadequate education in just four months?  These students don't need a fix, they need an education.  They have been deprived of one for almost their entire lives. This emphasis on NCLB and teaching to the test has not taught them basic facts and it has not taught them how to think and process material.  To keep their schools afloat, Principals have instituted so many credit recovery programs that failing kids know they don't need to do a thing, or even show up for class for years and then, at the end, they will have a chance to get four years worth of credits in one year.  Believe me, I have seen it and, I am embarrassed to say, have been a party to it. (If I didn't do it, someone else would have.)  Several years ago, I had a class of seniors who had passed exactly one math class before they got to me.  I had them in a double period.  At the same time, many were going to night school and getting credit for the exact same class with a different code attached.  Kids would sleep through day school because they were tired from night time classes.  Then they would do their day time homework in night time classes.  The biggest farce was 27 out of 28 passed the regents that year.  I warned them that although they would graduate, they still had no math knowledge.  Six years later, there are some still floating around the community college trying to get though the remedial class.  Most have dropped out.

Another problem is that the kids come in expecting everything to be handed to them on a silver platter, like it was done in high school.  They miss exams and expect make ups.  They do not work without review sheets and other hand outs.  They are excessively late and absent.  They don't do homework.  And, they always expect to be given a second chance.  Last time I taught the class a young woman handed in a blank final and didn't understand why I wouldn't give her an incomplete instead of an F in the class.  High school has trained her to expect second, third, fourth,..., hundred,....thousand chance.

Then there are the ones who don't belong in remedial but screwed up the entrance exam.  Everything is so easy for them and I always feel bad about wasting their time and money (financial aid iis their money) on a course they don't need.  It is sad that there is no way out.

Lastly, the ones that break my heart are the good students who just can't get the work no matter how hard they work or how many hours of tutoring they sit through.  Face it, people are different, have different abilities and not everyone is meant to pursue academics.

The hardest thing is passing the borderline student.  Once they get through remedial, they move on to a class where they are expected to have basic algebraic skills.  Like a fish out of water, they can't survive and many don't.  I see this happening all the time.

Arthur Goldstein wrote a great opinion piece in today's Daily News about the demise of education under Bloomberg's reign of terror.  It will take at least an entire generation to repair the damage he has done to the students of NYC.

1 comment:

Sweet Girl Tracie said...

I feel the same frustration on the level of working with younger children. It breaks my heart to 'see' children who just can not 'grasp and understand' concepts which are already too abstract for the mind of a kindergarten child. The whole aspect of kindergarten is teach and learn through play experiences. Without the play experiences, teaching higher level concepts to the young child will go out 1 ear and right through the other. Children now have to sit for longer amounts of time trying to attain knowledge that is above their heads. Most of the time, it is just teaching or 'talking to them', not really reaching or responding to the childrens needs.