Friday, March 23, 2007

A Ray of Hope

Parent-teacher conferences were today and yesterday. Mailing failing test papers home is the best idea I've ever come up with to get parents to come to school. Or, maybe it was the worse idea. I was inundated last night. This afternoon was a lot easier. I saw fewer parents and really had time to talk to them.

I spent quite a bit of time with Joey's parents. Joey cut almost the entire semester last term. And, when he did come to class, he did nothing. He did start trying at the end of the term, but it was too late. This term, he is trying. He is coming to class every day and carrying a sign in sheet.

The bad thing is that math is cumulative. It is hard to pass an exam that includes work from the term you decided to take a break from school. I was checking homework one day and Joey said that he didn't do it, but he thought about doing it. Although not the answer I wanted to hear, I said that is better than what you did last term so I am happy. Now, tonight, try actually doing it. What good would it have done to yell at him for not doing it? The old saying, "been there, done that" would certainly apply. I made a deal with Joey--just try. Do a little better on every test and if he got it all by the regents I would pass him. The first test of the term he answered 4 questions. I praised him and told him I was proud of his improvement. Next time, I expected him to get a few more correct. The next test, he got up to 10 right. Again, I praised him up the kazoo. I took out his latest test to look at while his parents were in the room. He didn't pass yet, but he had attempted 14 out of 24 questions. For Joey, that was unbelievable progress. His parents looked upset and asked me if he would pass. I told them I didn't know, but I was hopeful. I told them that Joey had faced failing so many times that the thing he needed most now was encouragement. Yelling and punishing hadn't worked in the past and it wouldn't work now. I told them that I thought we should try a new approach. They left, a little doubtful, but I hope I gave them hope. Sometimes a little bit of honey goes a long way.


NYC Educator said...

I like that mailing failing test papers home idea. I wonder why it never occurred to me.

Perhaps you are more evil than I am. But I will redouble my efforts (don't you love that word, "redouble?"), double, or perhaps triple my redoubling, and catch up, whatever it may take.

Pissedoffteacher said...

Mailing works great. It is non judgemental and the kids hate it so they study more in hopes of not failing.

Anonymous said...

It is obvious to teachers, but not always obvious to students (especially those with a long history of failing) that time spent reading the book, putting pen to paper on the worksheets or whatever the assigned activities are, can actually result in higher grades. I'm not being sarcastic. It's not a connection teachers can take for granted.

I know some children here in Japan who do the work the teachers set, and watch their grades go down. What lesson do they learn? Hey! "It's not worth the frigging trouble. Why bother?" I've watched some of these same kids see their grades improve once they get a better or different teacher (for many, this is the cram school teacher they go to AFTER school). A teacher's exhortations, threats, whatever, are not as convincing as actual results.

One of the sad things I learned from reading "Savage Inequalities" was the number of kids who have given up on school because this connection (effective hard work = better grades) has been broken for them. Not only the connection between putting in time on the books and getting better grades, but also the bigger connection between getting better grades and material success. And once this connection is broken, it's damn near impossible to repair it.