Deep Thoughts

I’m having deep thoughts.

Well…not really deep but they’re thoughts about relevant topics.

So after going off to college and living for 4 years in Richmond I came back to Amelia this year to teach at the high school.  It’s a small town with small-minded people.  I knew that, but I needed a job and it was between this job where I can live at home and I’m relatively close to Richmond and friends, or a job in Harrisonburg where I know noone and the job involves sitting and staring at a computer screen for most of the day.  Boring.  So back home I came and I know they say that things change while you’re away but the problem is probably more of the fact that they didn’t.  When I left Amelia it was full of prejudiced people, there was a shoddy educational system, and lots of pregnant teens.

Now that I’m back I notice how prejudiced and uneducated people are, I’m part of that education system (which hasn’t really improved), and there are even MORE pregnant teens.  How is that last one even possible?  And there are some things that I’ve realized about the public school system.  Coming from both sides of the coin: teacher and student.  Most people don’t become teachers at high school 4 years after they leave.  It usually takes longer.  So I think I have a unique perspective on this.

For one, the students are getting alot worse.  Not all of them, there are still some good students.  But the majority of my students don’t care about their grades anymore.  I’m not sure if it’s a case of ‘they really do care but they failed once and now they have to act badass so it seems they don’t care’ or if they truly could care less about their grades.  Some of the freshman I have have been doing badly in school so long without repercussion that they probably don’t realize that if they fail there are consequences.  Apparently most of the incoming freshman class that I ended up with failed their pre-algebra sol last year.  If they don’t know pre-algebra how am I supposed to teach them algebra???  No child left behind isn’t in effect anymore (thank god) but I can still see how much it’s hurt the school.  One of my students completely failed the 7th grade, had to retake it, and then was sent ahead to 9th grade.  On what level of existence does that make sense?  I have never heard of anything that ridiculous, and this year he’s going to fail and he’s going to have to repeat 9th grade until he straightens up.  I hope that the students who are failing and end up repeating realize that they will KEEP repeating until they graduate.  I did have a threepeater who turned 18 this year and dropped out of school.  I had to explain to my students that in reality that could happen.

The faculty isn’t perfect, but sometimes it’s really hard to work around the shortcomings of the students and the administration.  Some teachers seem to BS their way through everything and never seem to hear anything about it.  Personally, I have been told (and I agree) that I have good material and know what I’m teaching but I have poor classroom management.  I admit that my classroom is not managed like a tight ship or whatever the phrase is.  When the school year started I had THIRTY-FIVE students in my double block class that met first and fifth period.  There was a collaborative teacher in there with me and it was also his first year at this school.  He at least had been trained for educaiton, I had not.  I went to school for engineering and math and becoming a high school teacher was never the plan.  I’ve never even shadowed or spent time student teaching.  The only reason I got hired was there were literally no other candidates.  So with these 35 kids in my room twice a day I need you to understand that these were the students with IEPs.  These were the students with behavioral problems and learning disabilities, and many of these students had been in self-contained classrooms all of middle school and potentially all of elementary school.  Of course I didn’t know that at the time.  I soon learned however, because there were students who wouldn’t stay in their seats for the entire class.  Silence was unheard of after the first day.  My colab teacher brought in a whistle to try to instill order and silence and the students simply ignored the whistle and talked over it.  And here is public school flaw number 1:  why would you put students with learning disabilities in a class with students with behavioral problems? So not only are the students struggling with the topic, but there is a person in the background yelling and causing disruptions.  When you finally get the other student to behave, it tuns out that student is good at math and they then want you to go at their pace or they get bored and start yelling out answers which is still distracting to the student who needs a slower pace and has difficulty learning.  Then the second you stop to help that student out, behavior student is out of their seat and jumping off the walls again.  It’s a vicious cycle.

Thankfully we changed the schedule partway through the year so now the students are only in class for one period and there’s less of them.  A couple of students went back to self-contained classes but most of the students are the same.  The first period is part A students.  They will spend all year on algebra this year and next year during part B.  The students who were passing the double block class are now regular algebra 1 students.  They will take the SOL.  And luckily, this pulls some of the behavior problem kids out of the class of slower students.  Unfortunately, there are still plenty left.  And the ones that are left are the ones that like to do nothing, rip up their papers, and punch walls/desks/students/anything.  But it’s progress.

And students like that remind me of another point: I’m all for the right to a free education, but I think it should be just that: a right.  I have the right to bear arms but I don’t want someone pushing a gun on me and telling me I have to have one.  Why do we do that to students?  We push them into school and now what?  When I was in school we didn’t necessarily want to be there but we sucked it up and still did the work.  We may not have put 100% into the classes but we were expected to pass.  If someone gave out a project we worked on it.  Maybe it was late, but it got in at some point and time.  No.  These days the students I teach don’t seem to care, they wait until the last week of the 9 weeks to worry about turning in their work and by then they don’t know how to do it and they won’t bother asking.  Students like this should be allowed to quit school and try to function in the real world.  I believe that if they were given a chance they would realize how hard it is to actually find a job and do something successful without school.  Right now they take school for granted, and they’re costing extra money because they’re failing and wasting materials and time.

I recently assigned a statistics project to my main algebra 1 classes.  I think every person I have run into in the past week knows about this project and my frustration with my students about it.  I chose a project because we kept missing school due to snow days and statistics has quite a few equations that the students never bother to remember.  They weren’t doing well on recognizing which equation matched with what it was solving on quizzes, but they were getting bored with going over it and weren’t doing their homework or worksheets (even when I put the answers on the board).  So instead of a test, which they would have failed, I assigned a project that involved them going out and collecting 10 points of data on a topic of their choice and using the equation sheets provided to do the calculations, make a chart, and answer a few questions.  I gave them 2 weeks to do this and 2 out of 3 of my classes had a day in class to work on it. It was due a week ago.  so far I have 6 out of 45 projects turned in.  Test grade.  10 points off a day.  And it’s not just my class, other teachers are saying the same things about their classes.

YOU CAN’T LEARN MATH WITHOUT DOING HOMEWORK.  IT’S LIKE A LAW OF LIFE.  And yet I was fussed at by administration for making homework and classwork combined 20% of their grade.  It was too much…..well no wonder they aren’t passing the sols.

And that leads me onto administration and public school mistake 2: you can’t grade the teachers and administration on how well the students do.  That’s just not fair and it also makes teachers and administration focused more on passing the sols than on the students.  It causes silly scenarios like putting students out of class for the entire class period every day for a week.  that student didn’t get any education other than maybe learning not to do that stupid thing they keep doing, but for the sake of the 60% passing rate we need in order to get paid properly and stay accredited, we just sacrificed a student.

I’m going to stop with my rant there because I keep almost losing this page and my puppy wants attention and I lost my train of thought because my sister’s friends came over to return her ipod. But I’m sure there’s plenty more I rant about, some things that are legit and some that aren’t.  I wrote a student up for twerking in class numerous times, that one always entertains people.  We’ll see.



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