Saturday, March 21, 2009

We Don't Have Super Powers And Merit Pay Won't Give Us That Power Either

I'm no Anne Bancroft and neither are any of the teachers I know. We don't have super powers. We can't make learning disabled students smart. We can't engage the sleeping student the who has been awake all night listening to his parents fight. We can't force them to come to school when they would rather go to the mall and we can't get them into class when they prefer roaming the halls. We can't make them open a book and we can't make them study.

We can and do do our best to reach every student every day but sometimes our best does not work.

Mr AP says:

If you have students who are getting below 40’s on exams, please take some time to find out the reason. It is best if you can find a way for him/her to work harder and get better grade. If it is in the best interest of the student to be in another class, please take the time to get in touch with the Guidance Counselor. Maybe there is another class in which the student will function better. I don’t believe in leaving a student in a class knowing he/she has no chance to pass. It is late in the term, but it is never too late to do something to help a failing student.

It is time we try to take care of the students who are struggling. Please find a way to teach what they need to get at least a 65. If they do not come to class, you should speak to the Guidance Counselor right away. If they come, please work with them.
The guidance counselors don't know what to do with these kids. For most of them no other class exists. Every ninth grader must pass algebra, we can't get around that. And, many are already in the lowest level so there is no where for them to go. Sometimes working harder is not the answer. I know that if I work really hard, day and night, seven days a week, I will still not be able to do anything about curing cancer or ending the war in Iraq or getting jobs for all the ATRs. As far as never being too late, well, for some it is too late, especially for a math class where all the new work depends upon previous knowledge.

The above memo was from a very nicely written memo. No teacher was threatened, berated or humiliated. Unfortunately, the message here is the same as it has been in every other memo.


Grades are due Tuesday. I am in the middle of marking a geometry test I gave on Thursday. The grades are pathetic. I want to cry. I don't even feel like going back to those classes ever again. I can't come up with a way to get some of these kids to get double digit grades, let alone a 65. My first marking period geometry results are not going to be pretty. Mr. AP will not be happy.

I don't have super powers. I can't go to their homes and make them do homework. I do my best to get them to work in class, but for many that isn't enough. I can't control the cutting even though I call homes, speak to guidance and roam the halls myself looking for my students. (I only do this because I am hyper and can't sit still. I also prefer the kids in the building to most of the adults.)

I'm not Super Teacher. I'm just a mortal doing the best I can. Obama might think merit pay will make me stronger, but I disagree. All the money in the world won't give me the power I need to succeed with them all.


Kim Hughey said...

Amen and Preach on Sister!

Anonymous said...

Yes!!! When are they going to realize we need to do something about the *parents*? THAT is the missing piece to NCLB - parent accountability!

Pissedoffteacher said...

Parents, natural abilities, living conditions, oversized classes, etc, etc, etc.

Anonymous said...

It's sad though, but sometimes in all honesty some of the kids just don't give a damn. We can teach them many, many things, but the one thing we cannot truly teach them is to care. That is something they have to decide to do on their own. You're a good teacher. It's not your fault they fail. It's their own. You, nor anyone else for that matter, can't do their work for them. They have to do it for themselves. Hang in there. :D

Anonymous said...

I love part of the quote: "It is best if you can find a way for him/ her to work harder and get better grades."

I had a situation this past week...a parent who is frustrated with their kid's grade, which of course is my fault. Extra measures are being taken to help the student...and aren't working(extra practice, help after school, etc.).

Yet, this is a student who spends little (if any) time reviewing the content I taught to him. Yet I'M THE ONE TO BLAME???? I'm sorry, but I can try to help this student until I turn blue in the face. If he's not reviewing concepts on his own...his grade will never improve.

Once again, in my situation, the kid (and his parents) are not taking responsibility for their actions (or lack thereof) it's my fault.

So I respectfully disagree with your AP and his message to you. I can lead the horse to water, but I can't make him drink it, no matter how hard I try.

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

"All the money in the world won't give me the power I need to succeed with them all."

That pretty well sums it up. Merit pay sucks. (And as you know, I just missed mine, because all my kids failed a benchmark assessment.)