Thursday, May 28, 2009

Doing My Best

Last week I mailed 35 failing test papers home. The kids hate it but the way I figure it, they and their parents should be as stressed and worried about the regents as I am. I know that opening that envelope and seeing the paper with a low grade is better than any letter I could possibly write.

We had another test and although I promised to mail the test home to ruin their three day weekend, I knew I wouldn't have time to mark it before the holiday. The thought of having it mailed was enough for some (not enough) of them to get busy studying. I only had to mail 20 this time. Several of the papers were from the same kids but quite a few were from kids who had done well previously. Some of the kids were arrogant. One kid told me that mailing the papers doesn't accomplish anything, but from the way he said it, I am sure it does. Another told me his dad is now making him live in the basement and he has to stay down there until the grades go up. A few others promised to start showing up for tutoring.

One girl was very upset with me. I told her that I liked and respected her too much to allow her to fail. I told her how smart she was (true) and that I didn't care how much she hated me, I wasn't going to let her self destruct. While she didn't exactly hug me, she did smile at me when she left.

I used to mail home photo copied papers but truthfully, I don't have time to do that anymore. The mailing alone takes too much effort. It is great watching their anxiety level as I return the papers and tell them that anyone who didn't get their paper today would find it in the mail.

I don't know if this year's regents will be easy or hard, have a big curve or no curve. I do know that I poured my heart and soul into teaching these kids and while I know that math is not their strong subject, that their thinking and reasoning skills leave things to be desired, I expect them to give the test their best.

Truthfully, the results on this regents means a lot more to the school's administration than they do to me. I like having good percentages, my ego needs to see my students pass. More important is the knowledge that they gain from my class. A few years ago, I spread a rumor that the Math A regents was going to be the hardest regents given in 5 years. I told everyone that I read an article in the Times berating the state for its low standards and this year the state was going to do something about those standards. The rumor spread so far that other teachers came and asked me about it. I got the kids to come in on Saturday, and to stay late. I not only got them all to pass, I got them to learn the work so well that none of my kids had any trouble in Math B.

I'm afraid to spread a rumor like that now. Most of my kids are weak and I want to encourage them. My strategy seems to be working. I had nine show up for tutoring during the day and quite a few found me flopped on the hallway floor holding tutoring sessions as well. (At first they object to sitting on the floor but when I point out that I am doing it, they give in. I like to grab them when and where I see them and get any extra help into them that I can.) I know my geometry results won't be nearly as good. I'll be lucky if half pass. But, from what I have seen, these kids are learning, and they are starting to think. I might not get them to pass the regents, but I am going to get as many as possible to learn some math.


Rick Patterson said...

Again and again, you convince me that you are SuperTeacher.
Really looking forward to your Rocky Mountain excursion...

Mrs. H said...

You are my teacher hero! I want to be just like you when I grow up.

Pissed Off said...

No Super Teacher, just a very neurotic one. If I was really that good, I would not be jumping through so many hoops to get them to do the right thing.

Mrs. T said...

Mailing the tests home... I like that. I'm implementing that one next year!

mathman42 said...

I would probably get a letter in my file if I mailed tests home ( for abuse ). Actually few parents would react appropriately. If you get 40 % of your roster to pass the geometry regents, assuming a non honors class, consider yourself the BEST ! We have 80 on roster in 3 sections, I doubt 20 will pass. Too much material for poorly prepared students to do in one year.