Friday, April 10, 2009

Buzz Words

Billy joined my geometry class this term. (He was in another class last semester.) Since it is important to me to know where my students are coming from, I asked him how he did the previous term. He answered fine, but, being the cynic I am, I checked his data (yes, I used that word.) I wasn't surprised to see that Billy had failed. All failing kids use the word "fine" when asked how they have done in the past.

Billy came to class a few times and then started missing too many classes. I happened to run into him on my way home on one of his missed days. He was talking to a former English teacher who really likes him and knows about his troubles in school. I asked Billy for his cell phone number and his mom's cell phone number and promised to use it whenever he wasn't in my class He supplied both rather easily and I hoped this meant his cutting days were over.

My hope was short lived. But, true to my word, I've been hitting the phone every day he is out before I leave. And, while he is still cutting, his cutting is down to at most one day in two weeks. I even got him to show up and take (and pass) an exam last week.

I was pleasantly surprised when Billy showed up Wednesday, before the vacation. I always try to differentiate so I made it a point to praise Billy for being in class almost on time (a goal for him to actually be on time is coming, once he masters getting to class daily), compliment him on passing the exam and asking him to try to do a little more work in class (another goal for him). Billy, while not a student, is very bright and articulate. He just looked at me and said:

"Mrs. POd, you know I am a cutter. Some days this is the only class I go to. I look at the clock and see I better get moving. You are the most persistent teacher I have ever had. "

I asked him about his mom's reaction when he cuts and he told me he doesn't worry much about it because he stays mostly with his dad.

My next goal (oh no, I used that word again) is to get his dad's phone number. After that, I've got to figure out a way to get Billy into all his classes.

Now I've got the buzz words in place. I set goals that I shared with my student. I raised my expectations. I differentiated. I checked data. I can write them down, hand them in and make myself look like an educational scientist at her best. But, they would all be lies. I'm not accomplishing all that much with Billy. In fact, I am probably accomplishing nothing with him. I have strong reservations about his ability to pass my class and even stronger ones about his ability to pass the other ones he's taking. I don't know how to help him and words alone won't do it.


Grammatically Delicious Designs said...

YOU are helping him. The OTHERS are not. If every one of his teachers who can use those words so efficiently would actually put them to practice like you, Billy would check the clock before school got started and get moving. Just because you can't fix everything for him, doesn't mean that you can't be the one teacher for the rest of his life that he knows cared about his education. That is priceless regardless of a diploma. Now, about the OTHERS . . . .


Marcy Webb said...

As the Previous Commenter stated, you are helping him. You just may not be able to save him.