I composed a post the other quickly detailing the difficulties of a class I have. The majority of the students have a history of failure and have just been passed through year after year. I couldn’t even get that group to turn in a summary assignment that we started in class.
I appreciate the comments I received: advice, commiseration, and support.
Generally, I start with simple assignments such as the summary to build the students’ confidence and then we gradually build to the more complex skills. However, this group of students refuses to do anything outside of class: no vocabulary practice, no rewriting, no reading, nothing. If this continues, they will not make it through another English course. Homework will have to be done; not everything can be done in class.
Besides this, the course has 6-8 required assignments which must be passed to pass the course. We are about to begin the first two (both small), but the students will have to do some work outside of the classroom. This is the great hurdle for me: convincing this group that the homework must be done.
I also believe that the general system of education has harmed these students in the past (social promotion, no requirements to move onto the next level course, etc.), but my school has enabled the unwanted behaviors as well.
I mentioned a year ago a program that has now been required of all Freshmen where students are blocked together. What I didn’t mention as particularly then as I will now is the hand-holding that occurs.
Some of the assistance is quite positive such as extra support from counselors, additional layers of intervention for math, and added time for tutoring. These actually help the students and provide a support system which forces the students to improve.
However, there is a downside too. Referrals are intercepted by office staff to have “talks” instead of consequences for misbehavior (it takes three referrals for admin. action with these students versus one for everyone else), the teachers are encouraged to make “deals” with students, the teachers are often (indirectly) judged by passage rates which encourages grade inflation, and at least three teachers with whom I’ve spoken have had to write out student assignments for them.
Regardless, whether the system or my school may share some culpability, ultimately the student is responsible. I do put some of the onus on the parents (as one commenter noted after my last post), but the student has to grow up at some point.
At what point do we stop providing the excuses for the students? The system didn’t prepare them well enough, they’ve been passed through, the home life is difficult, and so on. I don’t want to sound heartless, but an employer is not going to care about any of these pardons. Yes, the students are kids, and I do not believe in making non-academic items part of an academic grade, but at some point the students must step up or suffer the consequences.
And what frightens me the most is–above all else–is that these students just won’t have the skills or concepts mastered to allow me to mark a passing grade on their report cards. Timmy may arrive with a 3rd grade reading level and leave with a 7th grade reading level, but if Timmy doesn’t meet the course standards I can’t mark a passing grade. He may need more time than some of his classmates, but Timmy still has to meet standard to pass the course.
At some point the students have to do the work.