Frustrated Teacher

I gave my Sophomores a single summary paragraph assignment of 10-12 sentences to complete over the course of eight days. We completed the rough draft in class, so this gave the students those eight days to either type up or write out a double spaced copy. Only 33% of the students (10/30) turned it in even though I reminded the students daily.

Aaaaargh! It doesn’t get any easier than that.

I looked up the students’ records and found that 12 of the students failed at least one semester of Freshman English last year, and another 8 had no higher than a D+ either semester.

Rough seas ahead!

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6 thoughts on “Frustrated Teacher

  1. Justen Eason

    Challenges like these truly suck but they make us better teachers in the end. Good luck and have fun with it!

    Reply
  2. Jim Van Pelt

    For me, this kind of behavior falls back on the parents. The 12 kids who failed English last year ought to have had their parents all over them to make sure they were turning work in on time this year. When I’m not teaching, I’m a parent of three school-age kids, and our #1 rule about school is “everything turned in–everything on time.” All other problems we can work on (like not understanding something or wishing they were doing something else), but everything starts with doing their work.

    The kids who are not turning in their work are high schoolers, and, by theory, are supposed to be more responsible, but when they demonstrate that they haven’t learned responsibility yet, then the parents have to intervene. The teacher can only do so much.

    That’s a pretty awful mix of kids, by the way, if 20 were D+ or lower last year. That’s a tough room. Good luck.

    Reply
  3. Chris Eacho

    Hey Doc,

    I think we’ve all known that frustration, but what is the answer? How do you get more from such challenging and underachieving students? It is easy to blame parents, but that does no good. I think you have one advantage going forward. You know that 2/3 of your students are used to failure and accept it. Why on Earth would they put in the extra effort when they view themselves as D-students or failures?

    My suggestion would be to find a way to give them a taste of success, then celebrate when they succeed. Using the 10-12 sentence assignment as an example, how could this be turned into a guaranteed success? Try asking your students, “who would like to get an ‘A’ on this assignment?” I can’t imagine many would not raise their hands. Tell them that each student who wants an A will continue to receive your help until they get an A. Start like you did with the draft, then give them VERY SMALL assignments each day, maybe two sentences to revise and type or write neatly. Give them a few minutes at the end of each class to accomplish that. Maybe even use it like an exit card or similar. Reward them for accomplishing that tiny task. Find some way to reward the students who finish early and turn in a quality assignment (maybe even graduate the rewards based on how early they turn it in). For those who still drag their feet, offer to help them at lunch or before or after school. Let their parents know that you are available to help on that assignment.

    All of that may seem like too much hand-holding for kids in 10th grade, but those students who are used to Ds may find they like the feeling of an A and produce more effort on the next assignment.

    Reply
    1. Jim Van Pelt

      Hi, Chris. Thanks for putting a positive spin on this. Of course, regardless of how the kids got here, we still have to teach them. I had just read an article in our local paper about how the schools are failing our kids, and it pissed me off. I think we have parents who fail kids, and we have kids who fail themselves, and, yes, we have a few (really, very few) teachers who fail kids. In the meantime, teachers sometimes face a class like Doc has here.

      I had a student teacher several years ago in one of my sophomore classes who told me he was having a lot of trouble with one class. I told him to give me the four toughest kids. I’d pull them out and work on them myself. Generally a “bad” class can be solved if the few kids who cause 90% of the problems are removed, and suddenly the “bad” class looks a lot more normal. I figured that I could handle the four rough ones easily because a) the group would be small, and b) I was the experienced veteran. On the first day I pulled them out, I had them do a group discussion about their most influential person in their lives since that was the essay they were supposed to be doing, and all four of them talked about their parole office. Everyone of them had a parole officer! Sheesh. In the meantime, my student teacher was facing a class that had lost the four most unhelpful kids, but he still eleven students who were juniors, retaking the class. That’s a toxic mix!

      So, good suggestions. We play the cards we’re dealt.

      Reply

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