Sunday, May 16, 2010

Humble Pie

Mr. Porno handed in a blank test paper on Thursday and on Friday came into class and put his head down.

I went over to him and said, "I'm sorry I let you down this term. I couldn't come up with the right way to get you to learn and succeed. I feel awful about this." Mr. Porno looked at me and said, "No, I let you down. I'll do better next year."

I don't know whether he will do better or not but the fact that he knows he was wrong has got to be a step in the right direction. I hope things work out for him.

A friend asked me why I humbled myself in front of this kid who did nothing but make my life miserable all term. I told her I don't look at it that way. This kid has been punished and put down for years. Nothing worked. I just tried a different approach. I do wish there was a way for me to have helped him and feel sorry that I couldn't succeed.


Ricochet said...

I know there is a reason that I like you.

I did something similar with a boy who got into a fight this week. I can not get him to do any work. The fight happened because other people escalated it.

I acknowledged my part in this (anything that added to his stress), pointed out he is capable of doing the work whenever he makes the decision to. I wrote it because I didn't want anyone else to hear and comment. And one of the clowns from the class where the fight happened was there.

Kim Hughey said...

I have used your approach many times and found it often leads to break throughs when nothing else works. In fact, it is one of the key ideas I will be talking about when I do my presentation at our annual State Math Conference in San Antonio.

You may never know if your comment makes a difference, but I suspect it meant a lot to this child and could very well represent a turning point in his education.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this is how the DoE views it too. YOU did not succeed, YOU did not find the right approach, YOU did not....etc, etc, etc.

So maybe a post on what you needed from the DoE to help this kid would serve you and other teachers better than putting the blame on yourself.

I had a kid who would not do any work but I could tell was smart. In group work he would cause trouble so I had to seat him by himself. His favorite subject in the classroom was snack and drawing evil mechanical men in his notebooks. And, he never smiled or laughed.

My principal told me he's been like this since kinder. I had several meetings with his mother, and I could tell she was not really interested in my discussion until I told her that I never see her kid smile. That got to her and she promised to get him professional help. When I told my principal, she informed me not to get my hopes up because she has made that same promise over the years. My principal was right.
His father was out of the picture and his mother was very busy with her job. Our guidance counselor was no help either in this or any other situation. I tried one on one, incentives, sanctions and trying to find the one thing that will peak his interests. Finally I would hold his snack until he finished part of the work because no matter what I tried, he would never finish any work.

So for 6 years he managed to pass all his classes without doing a stitch of work. Did I fail him? I don't think so. But a system that cannot override a parent's refusal to have him evaluated, get him professional help or in a setting that is not overcrowded with other kids with emotional problems is also not helping. I could not bring back his dad or get his mother to find more time for him. All I could do was try. But the fact that he passed the state tests did not put me in a position with the DoE to say I failed this kid. But this kid didn't show any significant improvement either since he passed all tests year after year by the skin of his teeth and the principal could happily promote him so one day he would be out of our school. However, under the new UFT plan, I would have been judged ineffective because there was no significant improvement on his scores. This is not right or fair.

I feel sorry for this student, but I do not apologize because I was alone in this--my principal threw her hands up in the air years before I got him and his mother wasn't any better.

Ricochet said...

I am teaching one for the second time who is probably schizophrenic. That's what her dad said last year - but the mom (divorced and she has custody) is in deep denial that anything is wrong.

The girl starts acting completely zooey when we get close to the state tests. And she has had a meltdown (according to her friends) and is out.

We can't pursue anything because the mother will not let us.