Thursday, August 02, 2007

Warning: Angst to Follow

So today was our first day back at school. A solid quarter of my English I students are repeaters; some of them have been through the course at least four times. (It would have been a third, but several of the repeaters in each class didn't show.)

Well, tomorrow's homework assignment will be one that I have used every single time I've taught the course: Is it important for you to graduate? Why or why not? 15 lines. The students I've taught before have answered this already, and they've seen it more than once because this is one I do not hand back. I keep it in a file and attempt to send a photocopy of it to them when I see them. So I'm thinking of giving them an alternate prompt. And what I want to know is:

What am I doing wrong? This is not to say that I am a poor teacher - more that I just don't know what else to do! Maybe they can give me some new ideas. At the very least, I hope they will understand that I truly want to help them succeed (that is, in learning the material, not just in passing the class!) and that I'm listening to them. What am I not doing that could help them learn? What am I doing that makes it difficult for them?

Please pray for me. I'm really hoping that I get some honest, USEFUL answers. I firmly believe that every student in each of my classes is teachable - there's one possible exception on the rolls, but he didn't show up today. (He consistently complained of headaches and fatigue when asked to do ANY reading or writing but expressed himself well when he chose to work. When I watched him working - on the rare occasions he did - I noticed the amount of frustration it produced.)

I really, REALLY want a 100% pass rate - but I'm not willing to lower my standards to get it. It would be silly to do so. If they can't pass English I, they're clearly not ready for English II!


DrPezz said...

Is the course designed so that the grading is standards based? Sometimes this has worked for our remedial courses because the students can chart their progress when showing their mastery as they go.

What content, not necessarily the skills, is required in the course?

How much freedom do you have in this course?

Sorry for the questions. Just curious.

Mrs. Chili said...

First of all, stop blaming yourself. These students have a choice - they can engage with the material or not. This choice has NOTHING to do with you. You could be the most skillful, most entertaining, most approachable teacher on the planet. If they don't give a shit about the course, they're not going to put out the effort.

That said, I'd be interested in the answers to Dr. Pezz's questions. If you've got some leeway in how you design the course around the objectives the school/state requires, you could have some real fun with the class. In my community college remedial grammar class, for instance, we play Grammar Jeopardy...

Mz.H said...

I always go after student feedback -b ut don't frame it as what YOU are doing wrong. Ask them what they would do or teach or read... this gives them a way to share their ideas without thinking they can dictate your teaching. At the same time, they know you value their feedback and opinions.

I hope you will feel the freedom to do things YOU want to with this course. You obviously know what's best, so I hope you can grab onto that!


"Ms. Cornelius" said...

What do you mean, "What am I doing wrong????"

It's not you. And don't give them the chance to make it about you. Because then their grades will only get worse.

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