Monday, May 2, 2016

On Not Giving Up

I teach a remedial math class during third block.  At the beginning of the year I had a class of about 18 students with various levels of math needs.  Some had barely passed their end of year testing the previous year, and some weren't even close.  And there was one particular student who was driving me crazy.  He spent most of the class period looking out the window or bothering other kids or generally doing nothing.  We were only two weeks into the school year and I dreaded getting to third period and dealing with this kid.

A week or two later the other math people and I decided to rearrange these classes.  The thought was that if we could put the students with similar needs into the same class for this one period we could more effectively help them (by more specifically tailoring our instruction).

To be very honest I was excited for more reason than one.
1) Hopefully for at least one class period a day, some of the kids wouldn't feel like the biggest idiot* in the class.  Everyone needs to feel some level of success.
2) Maybe in the rearranging my class wouldn't have the pain in the butt, get nothing done, mouthy kid in it.  I know that's a horrible thing to say, but it's true.

I'm sure you see this coming.  We rearrange, and homeboy is still in my class.

And this kid has had highs and lows throughout the year, but he's become one of my most favorite students.  Is he still easily distracted? Yes.  Does he usually raise his hand? No.  Do I often find him out of his seat looking out the window?  I sure do.

But the things he's accomplished in math are amazing.  He participates every day.  He tries extremely hard to truly understand the material.  Last Friday we were doing an online assessment/game and he redid it three times until he had a perfect score.

Tons of the credit for that goes to his regular math teacher.  But I like to think that some tiny portion of it is because even though he was driving me nuts, I never gave up on this kid. Every day I went to class and tried to help him in whatever way I possibly could.  I encouraged and I helped and I tried to build him up.

I don't say any of this to toot my own horn.  You see, it's been an extremely difficult several weeks with my students for various reasons.  I've had quite a few parent/teacher/student conferences and all kinds of other craziness going on.  But on no day have I given up on any of these kids.  So when someone asks me if I'm relieved that I'll have a day off from so-and-so because they're suspended, the answer is maybe a tiny bit yes, but mostly I'm sad and wondering how I can help them make better choices when they return.  Every single day is a new one.  And when some kids continue to make poor choices or are flippant and disrespectful, I try to remember this one, and how he turned it around in no small part because a few teachers believed in him.  And then I try again tomorrow.

*I'm in no way saying any of these kids are idiots.  They're not.  But that's the way you start to feel when everyone (or almost everyone) gets something and you have no idea what you're doing...and then you shut down completely.

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