Friday, April 2, 2010

Now You Care?

What are we teaching our students when we let them suddenly care a week before the end of the quarter?  If a student comes to me, after seeing the counselor, and asks me what s/he needs to do to raise their grade (after they have been turned in per the demand of the administration) from below 20% in a week, should I really do what I can to help them raise this grade?

I know I should be saying yes and I did tell the student to do all of his/her missing work and do some extra credit essays of his/her choosing, but what does this really teach the student?  That it doesn't matter how many "In Danger of Failing" notices you get from a teacher and grades the teacher posts to let you know you aren't doing your work, that if you give a half-asked effort in the end you'll succeed.

What is truly more important?  Getting kids their diplomas regardless of if they really learned and if they are really ready for life after secondary school or having them grasp the concepts and truly gain the knowledge we are supposed to impart as educators.  I want to teach my kids not only how to pass a test the state demands they take, not only the standards of my content, and not only what I can give them through books, but what it takes to succeed at life.

When we allow students to work the system to allow for their laziness, we are doing nothing but assisting them in stacking the deck against themselves for the future.


  1. You're making a really excellent point. That's one thing nice about coaching figure skating. For our tests, you have to continually work for them, there is no slacking off and then trying to make it up in the last few weeks.

    As for my own kids, sometimes, I just let them fail if they are not going to work for it.

  2. Sometimes that's the best thing we can do. As people are always saying, we learn from our mistakes. But, if we keep letting them slide before they can fail, it won't teach them they need to work hard.

  3. Weren't you one of the teachers who was called on the carpet for not passing enough of your students? I believe that the order was, "Do whatever you can to get more students to pass."

    From one Teacher of the Year to another, I know, without a doubt in my heart, that you, indeed, would do anything you could to help/teach those students to raise up from a 20% to passing in two weeks. However, I also have experienced that the subtext of the students' petitions is, "How little quantity and quality do I have to turn in to you to squeak by (with a 58% pass)." The administrative directive is "Do whatever YOU can to pass the students" -- (Perhaps lower your passing grade yet another 2% to 56% to help the student pass . . . No wait, still not passing . . . How about another 2%? . . . another? . . .)

    Unfortunately, by passing them on through the years, we have taught these kids, very well in fact, that if they wait long enough, and do little enough (en masse), someone will be "encouraged" to do it on their behalf.

    As for preparing them for the future? Tell me, when will the free grades, (lunches, babysitting, welfare, health care, etc), with no appropriate accountability end? It is such a sad, SAD, lesson for us all!

    Hold firm to your high standards of student accountability, my friend; make a stand and require them to deliver (Rest in Peace, Jaime Escalante).

  4. The funny thing, well not funny really, is that this kid will probably not do ANY of the work so I won't have to worry about it. Except, that I do. I worry all the time about them and how to get through to them.

    You are very right about what "we" have been teaching the students through the years and that becomes more and more true with each passing year. I'm sure NCLB has a lot to do with that (maybe I should blog about that in it's self).

    Thank you for your words of encouragement. I will do what I can to help that student but the likelihood is that student won't take my offered hand.