Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What's the real issue?

Yesterday was a day like any other day.  I went to school fully expecting some of my students would not have watched their video from the weekend.  As always, my students came into class, and got their WSQ out on their desk.  It amazes me, still, how many students look at me with wide eyed terror

There was a video last night?  

Yes.  It has been 2 days since our last video (longer than normal, but the last learning goal was particularly difficult).  We also wrote it in our planner.

We did?


So the same 6 students of my 30 spent the beginning of their day calling home.  We have a little sticky note next to the phone with a script of what they need to say.

"Hi Mom/Dad, I'm calling because I didn't do my homework last night.  I realize that completing my homework is essential to my success.  Please help me remember to do my homework tonight.  I'm sorry for interrupting your day with my bad choice."

This is actually a pretty normal start to the day.  Then I went to the other class to check on their WSQ's.  This is when I lost it.  6...yes, that's right, 6 total students did their work over the weekend.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME!

After taking some deep breaths and finding my happy place, I realized that there were 3 absent that day, and 5 who had been absent the day before, bringing our grand total up to 14 completed assignments.  That means a whopping 50% of the other 5th grade class did their work.

I don't get it.

I consider myself a fairly empathetic person.  It is easy for me to relate to my students and their situations, but this I just don't get.  How a student can just not do their work...ever.  It got me to thinking about what the real issue is.

Do we have accessibility issues in my school?  For sure.  Do we work around them? Yes!  I burn DVD's for anyone who doesn't have a computer.  This should be a non-issue.

Do my students come from unstable homes with little parental guidance once they get home.  YES!  What do I do for those students?  I've talked to them about setting up a schedule for when they get home.  We have after school tutoring that I've recommended.  I'm here before school and they know they can come in and work.  The labs are always open during lunch and 2nd recess.  And the icing on the cake...if the students actually used their math time effectively they would never have homework!  Let me repeat, if the students actually used their math time effectively they would never have homework!  The thing is, the math is not too difficult.  Every single student in my class can do this math if they tried.  But they don't.  They spend more time and energy avoiding their work than it would take them to actually complete it.

So what is the deal?  Honestly, this is one of those posts where I don't have the answers, and I'm hoping that you do.

I know that motivation is a factor, but I am having a really hard time motivating some of these kids.  They'd rather go home and play video games than do their work.  They don't see the relevance, even though I make a huge effort to help them see why math is important.

I know that organization is a factor.  I have many students who watch the videos multiple times because they lose their work.  They get frustrated, I get frustrated, but at the same time, they need to realize that they are being held accountable for the same work as everyone.

What more can I/should I do?  I do truly believe that the students need to start taking some responsibility here.  But what about when they don't?  Do they just fail?  It goes against my core beliefs to let a kid fail because they won't put in the effort.  But the amount of time and energy I put in to getting them caught up is exhausting.  And is it even fair to them.  Maybe it's better to let them fail early so they will succeed later.

This is why good teachers get burnt out.

Again, I don't have the answers...Do you?