When parents don’t care

What oh what is a teacher to do when parents don’t care?

I do have some wonderful parents that keep close track of their students grades and contact me when they see missing assignments to be sure we are on the same page thankfully. Then there are the parents that talk a good game when they come for conferences or when I contact them but no change happens in their students. I do understand that sometimes they’re doing all they can and it’s their student that is just refusing to change.

Then there are the parents who don’t care, they only send their kids to school because it’s required. They back the kids on everything always against the school. If the child fails a class they either blame the teacher or tell the kid “I know you tried your best.”

How do I reach those students? How do I get them to care about their own education when their own parents don’t?

I can tell you what I try though it doesn’t always work. I point out when students do well on a particular assignment or project asking how they feel about it are they proud of themselves. I try to connect what we do to real life. I make every effort to keep the work from interfering with their multitude of responsibilities outside of work. I try to provide them with reading or writing assignments that appeal to their interests or to the world around them. I just keep trying. I try to show the student how much I care. It is wearing. It does leave me exhausted come some, ok most Fridays but every weekend I try to recharge. I take time to think about students I’m struggling most to reach and figure out how I can do that. How can I get them to care whether their parents do or not.


Laziness and excuses UGH UGH UGH

A follow up of sorts to my post on apathy. I’m not sure if it’s an age thing, a generational thing, or if this has always been an issue, my career in education has spanned 18 years but that doesn’t mean trends don’t carry further back or maybe aren’t really trends at all. None of that made sense did it?

Laziness…it amazes me that I can provide class work time so that my students can get their work done at school where I am here to help them and so they don’t have so much homework to do when they have so many other after school commitments and so little gets done during class. Or maybe it gets done to the bare minimum that is necessary, one word answers, one sentence if they can get away with it. The students know by now I’m going to hand the work back and make them redo it or give it the poor grade it deserves but there we’re back to apathy, so many of them seem to not care about grades.

Excuses…oh so many excuses. Students had a week in class to work on their Insight project. That is they had five days to complete in class, no other assignments in my class for those five days, all they had to do was work on their project. So many not done. Then after two weeks, nearing the end of presentations there were still students not finished. I had a parent e-mail to tell me their child wasn’t done they had internet issues at their house. I understand that but you child has had two weeks to work on this project, they will still present today. Fortunately the parent was understanding, and by the time the student got to my class the project was complete. Now what work for other classes did that student not complete because they were working on the project for my class.

I understand busy lives. I understand electricity going out. I understand forgetting to charge or forgetting the charger. I understand life has unforeseen challenges and moments. I don’t understand how you can’t use the time given in class.

I monitor students while they work. I moved them to make sure they were in a good work space. I help as much as I can. And yet… sigh.

Maybe I shouldn’t let it get to me, but I do. It’s just so frustrating.

The motivation of responsibility

Ah there it is, one of the things I found while searching how to fight apathy was to give students responsibility. I know in the past it’s worked with students I have.

My second year teaching I had a student that I routinely had to speak to about her talking when she was supposed to be listening or working who complained she couldn’t read my handwriting on the agenda/homework on the board each week. So I showed her where my plan book was and said “Ok, you can write it.” Sure enough each day she came in, got her things together, then came to pick up my plan book and wrote the agenda/homework on the board. After that I had to speak to her much less in class about her behavior.

There are fewer responsibilities I can assign in a middle school classroom but this week is Red Ribbon week and we’re having a door decorating contest in our building. Several of my academic focus students, think homeroom, wanted to work on the door. One of those is a student who rarely if ever gets work done on time. This is a student who has gotten to experience lots of Mrs. Davis’ nagging to get said work done. Yesterday the student asked if during English class they could work on the door. I told them that when they finished the essay that is due today they could work on the door. The essay was done when the student arrived at class. I looked it over and it was done well too. Such is the motivation of having responsibility. Now to find another responsibility for that student and a few others.

Apathy: a Teacher’s bane

One of the things that I have the most trouble dealing with as a teacher is student apathy and unfortunately it seems to be high in my students this year. From discussions with other teachers it seems to be an issue across the board and not just in my class. For some reason this particular group of students seems to care less about their education and learning than any, that any of us have had in years.

Now bearing in mind that we have many students who have a really tough home life, it still seems abnormally high. I understand that my students dealing with lack of food or clothing or housing will not care as much about school as those who have all of their basic needs met. I’m familiar with Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs. I know kids who are dealing with the illness or loss of a parent or grandparent will also often not care as much about school.

However what I’m seeing is students who may not have all these things but school is their haven, their safe place, where they are fed, and we make sure they are clean and clothed and they concentrate and do their absolute best on their school work, and even if their best isn’t great they’re trying.

Then we have the kiddos who do have all of their physical needs met at home, maybe it’s emotional they’re lacking. Maybe their apathy and lack of effort at school is a cry for help, so I try to connect with them. I try to build relationships, which is a whole other post. And yet there are still kids that don’t seem to care, no matter how much we care about them or how they do, they don’t seem to care.

I’ve been doing some research, that’s my thing according to the Kolbe index I took years ago. The first site I found listed some things I can do.

  1. Give students duties and responsibilities – I have done this in the past though not yet this year. I’m not sure this is appropriate for the students I’m most struggling with, but I can try so now I need to make a list of responsibilities or duties students could take over in my class.
  2. Take students seriously and celebrate successes – if you as a teacher don’t do this already I don’t want to work with you
  3. Teach what’s relevant – well I have a curriculum and I do my best to make it relevant to the students and to “real life” I try to always give them examples of why these things are important to know, sometimes that still isn’t enough. And let’s be honest, sometimes I don’t succeed in making it relevant.
  4. Be positive and a model of good behavior – I’m probably one of the most positive people I know, the glass is always half empty, in the past I’ve found that then when I do make a negative statement about students effort it has more effect, but not this year
  5. Be consistent and fair – again if this is not you as a teacher I don’t want to work with you
  6. Allow students to have a voice – I’m not sure what exactly this means here, but I try to allow my students some freedom of choice in their seating, in their choice of writing topics, and yet again there are those that this does nothing for
  7. Listen to your students – one more time if you don’t do this I don’t want to teach with you
  8. Accept the fact that you can’t connect with every student – nope sorry this one I just can’t do, I’m going to keep trying, that’s why I searched for this information in the first place

Another site gave me four things to try:

  • Make sure work is purposeful – Well yeah, otherwise what’s the point? I don’t want to do work that isn’t purposeful.
  • Make work more collaborative – I can do this but the problem comes when I don’t let students collaborate with the people they choose because no work gets done in those groups
  • Offer choices about how or what students learn – We do have our students complete an all year project, the I-Search paper. They pick the topic, they do research and interviews, and they write a paper. It’s all their choice. Other than that I let students choose their own reading books, and some of their journals are student choice, though not all as there are certain topics I want to cover.
  • Make sure learning is fun – I do my best

All in all, while I’m going to keep looking for resources, I think the idea for me is to just keep trying. Keep trying to find the one thing that will spark those apathetic students, keep trying to connect to them, keep trying to help them connect to their work, keep trying to help them see why learning is important to their lives. Just keep trying, yes now Dory is singing in my head but it’s a tune worth remembering.


Kids and Brutal Honesty

We all know that little kids can be and usually are brutally honest. They speak their minds without stopping to think what the consequences might be. This has naturally led to many an embarrassed parent; it also has resulted in many a bitten lip by nearby adults be they teachers, family members, or merely someone who happens to overhear what was said.

When does this go away? When is it that kids stop speaking so freely? I see people who seem to have no filter all over the internet. I know some adults who still have little to no filter and it seems that they’re friends love that. So why is it some people have a finely honed filter, some have little to none, and others lose theirs in the heat of the moment? At what point do we start thinking about what we say and what effect that might have on others?

It’s not in eighth grade I can tell you that much. Well at least not the eighth graders I have this year. The first journal I had my students complete this year was: What is one thing (or more) that I should know about you as a person or as a student? Why is it important for me to know this?

I was curious as to just what answers I’d get. I got some that I expected things like I hate English, I hate to read, I’m not a good writer. Then I got answers that had me in shock and some in tears. I got to a point while reading and grading them that I had to quit. I had to take a break.

Kids telling me they might not get homework done because they have to help take care of siblings, nieces or nephews, they are in multiple sports or dance. The sheer number of kids I have that have lost a parent or sibling, or grandparent that was raising them just hurts my heart. Several of the kids have someone in their life fighting cancer or some other disease. At least two shared with me that their mom’s just don’t care, one specifically said ‘mom cares more about drugs than me’, yes that lead to more tears. Another told me mom came home from work one day and just quit taking care of the student and their brother, finally the state sent them to live with their dad, and while things are better as someone cares they’re living in basically one room.

They’re so willing to share. I think that’s what leads some of them to use school projects as therapy. Still it always leaves me wondering when does this stop? Do high school kids share the same way with their teachers? I can’t claim that it’s anything I do, those journals were assigned in the first week of school. I barely knew the kids. We were just starting on our relationship building. So when does it end?

My love hate relationship with snow and snow days

I’ve had enough snow for this year thank you very much!!!  Father Winter and Mother Nature please get it together I just can’t take it anymore!!!  Yes the snow day we had yesterday was a freebie but still it’s just too much!   Ok now that I’ve gotten that out of the way LOL, this has been an unusual winter.  So far more snow that I can recall since 2011, and that was the most snow since I can’t even tell you when.

I know everyone loves snow days right?  Yeah maybe not so much.  Every school/district handles snow days differently.  My current district builds the required six snow make up days into the calendar for the year and we attend on those days whether we have snow days or not.  So basically in a year with no snow days we attend school six days more than the state requirement, not necessarily a bad thing.  I remember in high school if we didn’t use snow days we got those days taken off the end of the school year.  In my last district, a small rural district, we had random days throughout the year built in as snow make-up days including MLK Jr Day and President’s Day.  My last year in that district we started school late due to construction then had so many snow days that to be able to get school and summer school in during the fiscal year (the only way it worked financially) we had make-up days on four Saturdays.  Yep, we came to school for half days on four Saturdays.  The first was well attended by students, as they went attendance did drop even though students knew they had to make up any work missed.  We had a large number of students on sports teams outside of school though and they had tournaments and games they just couldn’t miss.

We are at ten snow days and counting, which means we have used all of our built in days and two of the extra labeled snow days on our school calendar.  The last day of school is now a half day the Tuesday after Memorial Day.  UGH!!!  Ok so there’s one “hate” about snow days.  I don’t think a single teacher in the district is happy about this, even though it would not have been safe for us to come in on the snow days.

Snow days are not all bad, I enjoy the occasional day, the occasional unexpected day to sleep in, well when I can get back to sleep after the phone rings at some crazy time in the morning, or if we’re fortunate enough to have it called off the night before as we have had a few times so far this year.  When I say this year I don’t just mean this school year, I also mean this year you know 2014, we didn’t even get to come back to school when we were supposed to after winter break.  Winter break this year was extended by a week from snow days.  Coming back we had to almost completely start over with routines, another “hate” about snow days.  What’s worse is when snow days happen in the middle of a unit.  If it’s one day you can usually get the kids back but as Tony Danza noted in his book I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High, (I was just rereading this on a snow day coincidentally) if you lose several days you often lose momentum that you’ve worked so hard to build. Invariably it also seems that you end up with the same day of the week as a snow day time after time, this often puts one class or several classes (if you’re a specials teacher) behind the others, then it’s a struggle to somehow find a way to get them caught up so that all of your students get the information they need.

I guess I really haven’t mentioned many things I love other than sleeping in, I do enjoy the bonus day home with my son and occasionally also my husband.  I enjoy the break that I can use to catch up on work for school or maybe read that book I’ve been wanting to read.  Not having to nag the kiddo to get up and get dressed so we can head out to school is always a bonus.  Shoveling snow can be a great workout, but it can also eat up the whole day sometimes.

So how about you?  What do you love or not about snow days?

Teacher takes video of child stuck in chair

I came across this story yesterday in my Facebook news feed.  A fifth grade teacher decided to take video of a child with autism in her classroom who got his head stuck in a chair rather than help him out.  She asks him if he wants to be tasered.  I tried to watch the video and just couldn’t.  I could not believe that anyone in charge of children would do that to a child, especially in front of other children.  I just wanted to yell at the screen “What is wrong with you?”  I understand that there are children who repeat the same behaviors over and over and it is possible that this has happened before, the story doesn’t give any of those details, but no matter how many times a child does something like this it is NOT ok to make a video and joke about it.  Take care of the issue, contact whomever you need to to address the situation and move on!

I’m even more amazed that parents are supporting this teacher.  Maybe they don’t have all of the details, but really I want to ask them “What if she had done this to your child?  How would you feel then?  Would you still want her to keep her job?”

I don’t know this just really leaves me near speechless.  What do you think?