Sunday, February 05, 2006

Thanks for the replies, Magnus and Muriel, and Thanks for the info, ms. frizzle. When I get back to posting on teaching, I'll write more on what's been going on with that situation...

But I only thought I was having a bad day last Wednesday. I haven't posted because we got news that a very good friend of ours suddenly passed away Friday morning. He was 35 years old with a wonderful wife and three beautiful kids, and he's just suddenly good byes....a massive heart attack at work and he was probably gone before he hit the floor. Too upset to post for awhile....

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I had a really rough day today. As stated in my previous post, my kids' averages are really low. Well, it is in fact because they are not learning anything. Is it because I am not teaching anything? I don't believe so. They are not motivated to learn it. They appear not to care about grades. They do no homework. They do not pay attention in class. They do not think!!! If they answer is not obvious, they give up. If it is not handed to them, they are not interested.

I was lightly reprimanded today because my averages in my level three classes are so low. There's a lot to discuss about that.

I feel the main reason the averages are low is because the kids do not do any work - they do not want to have to think about why, they have never had to think about most of their math classes it appears to have been, " Memorize this. Spit it back to me on the test. Pass the class." Go through the motions, and you should pass. Ok, so the kids aren't doing the work.

Now. where is my responsibility in bringing up the class averages?I have already been thinking about this. Some ideas for getting the kids to do the work:

1. Have daily graded assessments. Nothing big, but just like with my geo homework quizzes, they should tell me where the kids are. (What do I do, though, when I test them on an algebra I topic. and they do not have a clue? Do I re teach algebra I? How did they get into my class?)

2. Call the parents every time a student does not do the work, is not paying attention in class, is not prepared. (This is a lot of work. Do I have time for all this without becoming burned out? Should we be micro managing high schoolers? What are we really teaching them by doing this?)

3. Give the kids clearer expectations of what they must know how to do and what they must understand, especially if I am trying to introduce a new way of learning (requiring them to THINK). Give a unit outline. Explicitly state it and write it out for them. Some of these things seem obvious now, and yet I don't think I was really doing them well enough.

I want to be a good teacher. I want my kids to be prepared to handle what the world is going to throw at them. I want them to be able to solve complex problems, to think logically and to be able to express their ideas with symbols and in writing. I do not want to let them down.

I am going to catch some flak from parents about the low scores. I spoke with two parents today...both of whom began the conversation with statements similar to "Math is just not his/her thing. She/he has never been good in math, We just want him/her to get a good enough grade to get into college." I hear a similar version of this from other teachers and administrators. I was told by an administrator (well intentioned and a man I respect very much) that these are kids that are not good in math, and that I need to give them "confidence." I am told by other teachers that the kids just don't seem to be able to retain the information, and its best to give them frequent, small assessments so that they will be able to pass. They should not be required to put the pieces together, or to remember anything for more than a few weeks.

All of these people are well intentioned.We all (I hope) truly want what is best for the kids. But I want to tell them, " You are telling them, in so many ways, that they cannot in fact learn math. They are not smart enough, they are not capable enough. You are telling them that understanding math is not really important. "

The easy thing for me to do would be to raise all their averages - the kids are happy, the parents ae happy, the administrators are happy. At the other end of the spectrum, I can blame it all on the kids. I want to do neither.

These kids can learn math. They can think logically, they can reason, they can learn to use symbols. They will have to work at it, no doubt. But they can do it. They have to do it.

If they are not doing the work, how can I motivate them to do the work? How can I show them how to reason? Most importantly, how can I make them realize that they have to dig deep....and also that I know they have it in them?

Or maybe I'm wrong. This is what I am truly wondering about I wrong? Should I "dumb it down"? Are they not capable?

If I am wrong and they are not capable and they will never learn it, i want to quit teaching. I am wasting my life.

Are there any teachers out there? Do you have kids that will just "never get it?" Am I wasting my time on these kids? Do I just pass them and save us all the heartache? And then walk away from it all and find a nice, high paying chemist job?