Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Within these groups, I have 3rd graders who have a decent handle on some multiplication facts, I have sixth graders counting on their fingers, and every variation in between. Ideally, I should put all those counting on their fingers together, all those who can rattle off their multiplication facts together, and so forth. If I could separate them thus, I could more accurately address their present needs.
Instead, they are placed by age, which means I have large variances in each of the four classes. No matter what I am teaching, part of the class is going to be bored and part will be befuddled. It is like giving a surgeon butter knives with which to operate.
One of my present students is a perfect example. She is the classic tough, inner-city, attitudinal kid. She nearly got into a fist fight within our first 5 minutes of class. She had a chip on her shoulder and was daring me to knock it off.
I was not surprised to find out she was grades behind academically. Tough bravado is often used as a cover by students who struggle in school.
It is with kids like this that I tend to shine. I don't escalate their anger and I give them space. She refused to do any work at first and I didn't push.
Once I realized some of her anger was insecurity over academics, I tried to insert some "easy" items into the 6th grade class practice so she could be successful with something. Little by little she tried some of the work, and in this past week she has started to approach her math with some of the same zeal she originally displayed in attitude.
But here is the the sad part.... right now, I am able to give her a chunk of my class time because her summer school class has dwindled down to about 7 students, and the rest of this class is fairly independent. I am also working with her on what would be considered 3rd grade level math. When the school year starts, she will be in a class with 25-35 students and will be forced to do 6th grade math. There will be little outside help for her, and that which there is will try to make 6th grade math workable for her... rather than addressing her at her level. In that environment, she will most likely revert to the attitudinal and angry child I saw at the beginning of summer school. For all appearances, it will look like she is a behavioral problem and everyone will try to correct her behavior.
However, the truth is that her academic needs are not being met and she knows of no other way to express what is going on in her life. I honestly believe most behavior issues in our schools (and there are MANY) are due to children being mind numbingly bored or being forced to sit through lessons that might as well be graduate level in terms of their difficulty for the child.
and the band played on.....
Posted by Andrew at 10:24 PM