Saturday, November 10, 2012

My biggest struggle this year...

This is an original post from earlier this week.  I have decided to repost it after taking it down for a few days.  My purpose in writing this was to ask for help, and my audience was my PLN.  In the end, someone not familiar with me, my students, and my educational philosophy took it out of context as representative of me and my approach with students.  And instead of offering help and support, I became the subject of an intense attack about my choice of words, my ability as a teacher, and my attitude towards my students.  My purpose in writing this blog was and will continue to be to make my classroom transparent and to share both my successes and my failures, my good days and my struggles.  

I've hidden and disabled comments on this post.  That is not to censor anyone.  But rather, to protect me and my PLN from further scrutiny.  We welcome healthy debate, and we by no means always agree with one another. But we also believe in respectful dialogue and that does not seem possible on this post at this time.

In closing, I believe all students are capable of learning and of succeeding academically, even when they don't believe it themselves.  I am a hard-working teacher who strives to find ways to reach even the lowest students.  As they come into my life year after year, they present different challenges and struggles that must be overcome.  

This year, it seems to be the struggle of knowing how to truly learn and not just answer bubble tests like they have been asked to do their entire educational lives.  It is the struggle of getting past years of failure in math to believe they can succeed and begin to take the steps towards that success.  It is the struggle of learning that "It's better to try and fail than to not try at all".  

These are real struggles.  They are true struggles.  I acknowledge them with my online PLN, with my students in class as a group and individually, and with my colleagues and administration on campus.  We are not giving up on these students.  We still believe in them, and nothing will ever change that.  They are wonderful, talented, amazing teenagers.  However, we must continue to search for ways to reach them and challenge them academically.

Thus was the purpose of sharing my frustrations and my challenges.  I want to help my students succeed in the public education system that I work in.  Some things I am trying are working, some are not.  Some things I try are reaching some students but not others.  So I continue to work. I continue to build relationships. I continue to try new strategies.  I continue to share ideas with other educators who have the same goal as me.

As you read, hear my passion for these students.  Hear my desire to find ways to overcome these barriers. Hear my struggle and how I am willing to share it on a blog that anyone can read instead of hiding and only presenting the successes.

Don’t just listen to what I have to say.

Hear me.

Thank you for reading.


My Algebra 1 classes are a piece of work this year.

From Day 1, I did notice some differences - and these are good ones!  The kids are great kids.  They are nice kids.  I feel like I know them a lot better, a lot earlier (thanks to the flipped classroom).  I feel like the classroom environment is generally positive, and even though I have to "get on them" often, it is done in a positive way.  For the most part, even though there are struggles, I don't dread these classes at all - which I can't say about some periods in prior years.

They struggle a lot with maturity issues (wait your turn in line, clean up after yourself, be patient, stop talking when you are asked to, etc).  Things I don't think I should have to deal with when they are 14 or 15, but sadly, it is one of the hardest parts of this year.  I am losing patience daily because I feel that at this point of the year (1/3 of the way done!), they should have come along in those areas.  But, the more I think about it, the more I am realizing I have to UNDO years of training and years of entitlement and years of being able to act however they want.

It's hard.

However, this is not even my biggest struggle.

Here it is:

My students don't know how to learn.  They don't know how to succeed.  And, it doesn't seem like they care to change any of that. 

And, (which is the hardest part), they do not seem to be trying any of the learning strategies, success strategies, and tips that I teach and model for them.  I have spent SO MUCH time this year talking about how to be successful, how to learn, etc... and it seems like it is all a waste.

Every single day, students have the opportunity to get help, to ask questions, and to re-learn material.  I try to do small group teaching a few times a week depending on the content.  I walk around constantly and check their work, ask how they are doing, etc.

But the majority of my students will sit there, work out every problem wrong, and then come call me over just to get my signature on their chart that their work is "done" even though their work is wrong.  While they are working on it, they tell me "I don't need any help, I am getting it", so I go and work with the students who need help or who are asking questions.  I ask them if they checked their answers and if they need help on any of them, and they say "oh yeah I checked them and they are all right".  So, (hopefully, if I have the time), I will spot check a few problems and notice total errors, so I ask them to look at the answer key for "#12".  They tell me the answer, and it is completely different from the one they have written down.  They say, "oh, I must have forgotten to check that one."


I don't know how to deal with this... everything I have tried has failed.  They just aren't getting it.  I can't help students who just don't want to learn.

With 39 low-level freshmen and sophomores who are used to failing are all stuffed into one class, it's overwhelming.  Even with the flipped classroom, I feel drained trying to get around to every student and making sure their questions get answered.  Their group members are more than capable of helping them, but it doesn't happen when:

(1) students don't ask for help (and when I ask them if they asked their group, they will flat out lie and say "they said they wouldn't help me" and when I ask the group members, of course, they were never asked...) and when

(2) students sit there and are oblivious to the fact they  need help because they refuse to check their answers.

#flipclass in my afternoon Math Analysis Honors classes?  Amazing. Wonderful. Inspiring. Awesome.  

#flipclass in my morning Algebra 1 CP classes?  I'm drained. I'm exhausted. I just want to help them learn. I just want them to ask questions when they need to. I just want them to understand. I just want them to want to learn. I just want them to care.

Progress. Soon. Please.
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