Saturday, March 26, 2005

Education is not on the teacher

We had a short day today with it being conferences week. And I have to vent some steam for a minute.

The Romeo and Juliet essay on who was responsible for their deaths, a simple five-paragraph essay using quotes and I even gave a sentence-by-sentence outline, was due today. I teach roughly 80 kids in my three English classes. I received twelve papers today. They have had the assignment for over two weeks and we even worked on it in class. Granted, I give the students four free "late work" coupons, which some of my serious honors students are planning on using so I will be getting more papers on Monday. And the "late work" coupons are just one way of conning them into turning something, anything in. This is the only essay so far this semester and only the second piece of written homework for the semester, and the semester started February 1st!

This is ninth grade. I already have to structure all the "homework" into daily classwork or it simply will not be completed. Hell, it's not even completed as classwork half the time. How, How, How do I make them stand up and want to be educated?

Again, I am only ranting about that bottom percentile that refuses to work, those recalcitrant students that make my days longer and make me spend less time on the students who want to be there. Most of my students are great. But in this age of "No Frickin' Child Left Behind," why am I spending all of my energy on the bottom percentile?

So I admit, I leave some behind. There are two boys in particular in my fourth period class that during the three days the students were preparing their acting group scenes for Romeo and Juliet, they literally spent three days staring into space, even after repeated prompting by me that they needed to accomplish this task. So they get up to perform their scene after even more prodding, and just stunk it up. I knew there was trouble when the kid asked me how to pronounce the very first word in the scene, "Sirrah," as he started to act. They had three days to look up the words and get comfortable with the language, especially with all the guidance I was giving.

And then I had this boy in for conferences this week. His mother is oblivious. She keeps saying, "I'm trying to work with him," even after last semester's report card has five out of six F's and the current progress report is even worse. Did he turn in the essay today to raise his grade? No. He says he still has a couple of paragraphs left.

My curriculum is rigorous and relevant. Those that took the task of the group acting scene, and then earlier this month the individual Shakespeare speech memorization, are really doing well. It is working.

So, for these few, do they deserve to bring down the rest?

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