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Dennis Fermoyle said...

The second difference is that I teach high school, and I set up my classes so that any student who makes an honest effort will probably do quite well, but the kids who don't try won't even come close to passing. By the second half of the year, some of my most apathetic kids have figured out that they're not going to make it in my classes, so they ask to be sent to our Alternative Learning Center. Sometimes these are kids who behave poorly, and to be honest, I'm never sorry to see them go. I know that it is politcally incorrect to say this, but getting rid of just a few kids who don't try and don't behave really helps because the classes become better, the students who remain start learning more, teaching becomes more manageable for me, and the chemistry of the classes gets better and better. Usually, as the year goes on, my classes and I like each other more and more.

7:59 PM

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Ms. H said...

Yes, AT, we have been going about it all wrong. Rather than investing our hearts and souls into not only the education of these children, but also their souls...we should figure out how to run them off so our job gets easier as our class dynamics improve over the course of the year.
I'm sorry...but I don't remember taking any classes in college that told me running kids off was the secret to being a successful teacher. I also don't remember them telling me it would be easy.
I always thought if it was easy, that meant I wasn't doing my job....which is educating ALL of the kids. Especially the ones who appear to be apathetic and/or behavior problems. My experience (and I've been in the education field 12 years) has been that the "problem" kids are exactly who I'm here to teach. It's these kids that will be the difference in our society...better to have reached them in grades K-12 than to finance their lifelong lodging in a maximum security prison.

I truly hope that I never become as jaded as public education's self-proclaimed "defender". Keep fighting the good fight, AT, it's worth it.

9:59 PM

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Dennis Fermoyle said...

Ms. H, saying that you will learn to structure things at the end of the year to make things more manageable for yourself is hardly telling someone that they've been "going about it all wrong."

I would challenge anyone to find any student I've had, any parent who knows me, or any teacher I've worked with who would describe me as "jaded" in the job I do. Obviously, we have different philosophies, but I'm not going to describe yours as evil in some way, and if you worked with me, I don't think you'd describe mine that way, either. You believe you need to reach every student, and I admire your effort to do that. I'm sorry, but I don't think that's practical, and I'm afraid that when we try to do that, we're hurting kids who are truly interested in getting an education. I also believe that at the high school level, when we try to hang on to kids who have absolutely no interest in getting educated, that they sometimes influence other kids to adopt their self-destructive ways. In other words, instead of losing just one, we end up losing two, or three, or four.

I believe public education is about giving opportunities to kids. I try to set my class up in such a way so that every student can be successful. I've never been more proud than when a young man who was classified as EMH earned a straight A by scoring 98 percent on a rather long American history final I gave to a basic class a few years ago.

But while I want every kid to have the opportunity to be successful, I can't MAKE them choose to do that. I can encourage them, I can try to motivate them, and I can do everything I can to make my class as interesting as possible. I'll talk to the kids, I'll send letters home to the parents, and I'll meet with them. Sometimes it works. I've had students fail the first quarter, make the decision to start trying, and end up getting Bs later in the year. But I've also had my share of students who never decided to make that effort. When that happens, I'm sorry, but I'm not going to pass them. And when those students head for our ALC, it does make their classes better, and it does make things easier for me, and I'm not going to apologize for that either. They've made a choice--I don't think it's the best one--but I'm going to respect it.

...

You and I have very different approaches, but I wouldn't ever presume to tell you that you need to do things my way. If after twelve years, you honestly believe you can reach every kid, and if you're having success at that, I've got nothing but admiration for you. Any teacher who tries their hardest at their job, like you do, and believe it or not, like I do is a public education defender.

6:12 AM

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since it's my blog, i'm going to share my views on this. i'm not trying to offend anyone. i'm also not saying that what anyone else is doing is wrong. there are many ways of being a good teacher. this is simply what i think and practice.

i worked parttime in an alternative school setting while i was in college. for three hours every monday, wednesday and friday, i had twelve students who either got kicked out or dropped out of their traditional high school. some of them were there because they wanted to be: they were trying to get their g.e.d. there were others who had to be there: the school was forcing them to make up credits while they were out of school. i had two who were kicked out because of violence against a teacher. i had several who had chosen not to do the work, and the high school refused to put up with it anymore. i had a pregnant teen who chose to drop out and get her g.e.d. so that she could start college sooner. it was a motley crew...and, dear lord, i was terrified my first day...and my first week...and, really, if i'm being completely honest, my first month. this experience created who i am as a teacher, though.
through my coursework, i worked with those students who wanted to learn...or who at least participated in class and did their homework. they were fun. i loved their enthusiasm. i loved that i didn't have to ask them multiple times to do their homework. i loved that i could take them to the computer lab and not have to worry about a paper airplane being shoved in a disk drive. i really loved that i didn't have to worry about some sort of behavioral outburst.
i was working with both student populations at around the same time. days i didn't have to work at the alternative school, i was going into the traditional high school for observations and practicum experiences. working with the different student dynamics like this let me really compare the two.

i realized about halfway through the semester that the kids in the traditional school would make it without me. they may not have enjoyed school, but they were involved in their education. they would make it where they wanted to be with or without my help because they cared.
my alternative school kids were the ones who need a teacher...some sort of help in life. this is one of the many things i've taken with me from that experience. i want to teach those students who need a teacher. i know i can't reach them all, but i can give it my best effort.

i feel like this has become somewhat after school special-ish...and i apologize for that. i just feel very passionately about my delinquents. i've found my calling, i suppose.