Feeling rather like a failure this year

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by myangel52, Apr 1, 2009.

  1. myangel52

    myangel52 Comrade

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    Apr 1, 2009

    This hasn't been a great year for me, as a teacher. I know some of it has to be my fault, and some of it is the students, but I feel like I need to figure something out. I have been wracking my brain most of the year to figure out what to do, and I am at my wits end.

    A good majority of my students are lazy. They do not pay attention in class, and distract others, in spite of my best efforts to maintain control. Many (read as most) do not do assignments anywhere close to on time, thereby not benefiting from them as much as they could (or in some cases, at all). Several of my students do not even come to class with materials to participate -- math book, pencil, and paper.

    Every test, and most quizzes, that I have given, has been a disaster. I have looked back at the tests, and I made sure I am testing what I am attempting to teach them, and they match. The most recent test is no exception. I even gave them a review packet that had most of the test questions in it, with minor changes (changed names or numbers or both, but the process remained the same), and some where the exact test problem. I went over the review, gave them the answers, showed them how to do it. Of the 2 "regular" classes that I have graded so far (haven't graded one of the classes yet) 3 students - out of 51 - have had above a D. That means that 48 have D's and F's. Looking through, part of the students just didn't show their work -- which I made clear each day was the easiest way to get no credit. If no work is shown, I have no idea how they got their answers. Many students didn't answer the question being asked -- they answered whatever they wanted.

    This has been an ongoing problem this year. I don't know how to motivate my students. I even allow test corrections to raise their test grades, but most do not do them. Assignments can be done until the end of the quarter, for up to 70% credit. Many do not appear to care. I do not agree with resorting to bribery -- I am philosophically against rewarding people for what they are supposed to be doing. But I don't know what to do any more. My other team teachers have the same problems, but not quite to the same degree -- math is built on itself, and harder to catch up in that their classes.

    I welcome any advice. I feel like I am failing miserably.
     
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  3. Vegas Art Guy

    Vegas Art Guy Rookie

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    Apr 1, 2009

    Sounds like you need to fail some of them. Have you communicated with their parents at all about this?
     
  4. myangel52

    myangel52 Comrade

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    I have been communicating with parents, and many of them DO fail -- at the end of second semester, we had a 60% failing rate (d's and f's) in 7th grade math -- between my 3 classes and the other teacher's two. My rate was probably closer to 70%. Parents claim to care, but I see no noticeable difference in the ones that were failing before I talked to parents. Some parents don't even appear to care... I am at a loss.
     
  5. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Apr 1, 2009

    How do your results compare with the rest of the school? I have had classes where most of the students were unable to master the material - and rare classes where we can move forward into advanced curriculum.
     
  6. myangel52

    myangel52 Comrade

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    The other seventh grade math teacher is having somewhat similar results, just not as drastic -- she has a lot of kids failing, too, but not as many do so poorly on the tests. Both of our advanced math classes are doing wonderfully, though.

    The other grades don't compare quite as much -- 8th grade is doing poorly in math, but not in such large percentages. I think the second quarter was in the 40% range of D's and F's. 6th grade is somewhere in the 20's or 30's.
     
  7. azure

    azure Companion

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    Apr 4, 2009

    It's the same thing with 7th grade math AND English where I sub a lot. It's not the teachers here, and I doubt it's you,
    myangel52, either. It's the parents, and unfortunately it's a sign of the times. Until children are held accountable by their parents, and parents held accountable by the school, i.e. no more social promotions, nothing is going to change.

    With regard to math in particular, I see a problem in the lower grades. Many elementary classes I go into have the multiplication chart taped to each child's desk, and they are allowed to use those instead of being held accountable for committing the multiplication tables to memory. Someone probably wrote a PhD thesis contending that children can learn those math facts simply by looking at those charts often enough for the answers. During the summer between their 2nd and 3rd grades, I made flashcards and I made sure my two sons learned their multiplication tables. That's what I mean by holding parents accountable. You tell them at the beginning of 3rd grade, if your child doesn't know his multiplication tables by the end of this year, he won't be going on to 4th grade.

    That probably sounds radical to some, but until that kind of accountability is put into place, nothing is going to change. And the divide between those eventually going on to higher education and those who can't will become greater and greater, and the number in the latter group larger and larger.
     
  8. mrsnikki

    mrsnikki Companion

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    Apr 4, 2009



    I agree with you on being held accountable. I know for a fact when I was in elementary that I had to memorize those multiplication tables. Students now do not and I think it is really hurting them now and in the long term! They can't even do simple long division. It really is a shame. By the way I am teaching 8th graders this semester. They really should know how to do simple math without assistance by now!
     
  9. teresaglass

    teresaglass Groupie

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    Apr 4, 2009

    At my school 7th and 8th graders spend the first month revewing their multiplication tables. That helps them get better grades in math during the year. Our best math teachers do this and it does not always help.
     
  10. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Apr 5, 2009

    When I taught 7th grade math, that was my "Do Now" for the entire first trimester... times tables. (Trimester 2 was the perfect squares and perfect cubes.)

    I have a LOT of the same kids this year in Algebra. I'm happy to say they're good at factoring, since they know those times tables and perfect squares :)
     
  11. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Apr 5, 2009

    Ahhhh, 7th graders, my favorites :). (I mean that, for real).

    7th grade is a wonderful age. It's the time they begin transition from childhood to young adulthood. I like to compare them to two year olds, not maturity wise, but because of the major life transistion. Just as a two year old is leaving babyhood behind and begining to see the world as a small child, a 7th grader is leaving childhood behind and begining to see the world as a young adult. 2 year olds throw tantrums and exhibit all sorts of negative behaviors because they can see and think about things that their bodies are just not physically ready to do. 7th graders cop attitudes, get lazy and exhibit all sorts of negative behaviors because they can see the adult world, but they're just not ready to enter it yet. It's a frustrating place to be, but you, as their teacher, can smooth the transition if you fully understand what's going on.

    While they look big, they still need to be treated as kids, but in such a way that they THINK you're treating them like mature teens (it's an interesting balancing act). Many of the techniques you would use for younger children are applicable to a 7th grade classroom. They might look old enough to be given a longer leash, but this is the age when you really want to real them in a bit. Make every step perfectly clear. I have been known to hand a paper back to my students 5 or 6 times until I see the proper work. When I teach, I have a part of the board where I have "steps you MUST show EVERY TIME", and I write the critical steps there. On the other part of the board, I write down all the intermediary steps. I am very clear what needs to be shown. Because I have multiple opportunities for quizzes and graded in class work, I have the chance to beat this idea into them before the test. For the most part, by test time, they're writing their work, but I have to do a lot of hand holding to get them there.

    Also, appealing to their sense of "grown up" works wonders. Telling them, "when you get to <algebra, calculus, whatever>, your teacher will expect you to show certain things and it's my job to make sure you know how to do it", goes a long way in getting their cooperation. You're showing them that you think of them as capable young ladies and gentlemen (even if you have to fake it), and they respond.

    Oh, something else. Do you have any of your old college notebooks? I've brought some of my old stuff in so they can see and they LOVED it. I guess it serves to humanize you to the kids, and they see you in a different light and are more apt to cooperate...at least mine were. Good luck :)
     
  12. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Oh, and yes, the multiplication tables are important. I do a mad minute every friday and when the whole class can do 100 problems in a minute we have a pizza party :). (okay, yes, I use food as a motivator a lot. You'd be suprised how well the peer pressure works to get those slackers to memorize the tables).
     
  13. myangel52

    myangel52 Comrade

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    Apr 5, 2009

    I appreciate everyone's responses. It does help me to feel a little better, knowing that it probably isn't me. If I am able to keep my job (budget cuts looming at the state level... boo!), I know how I am going to start off next year -- even more review, but starting with multiplication tables! It astounds me how many of my kids don't know them.

    Since you brought up the accountability thing, how do we hold the students more accountable, if the parents aren't doing their part? I know that when I talk about my students, to my husband or friends or in general, I make it sound like it is ALL of them that are slacking off, or ALL of the parents don't care, and I know it's not. But is the hugest majority I have ever seen. I try so hard to hold my students accountable for their actions and choices and work, but so many of them don't seem to get it. Am I just fighting a battle that won't end?

    *I really do appreciate everyone on this board, for their help and for how supportive you always are. I am so glad that I have somewhere to turn, outside of my colleagues at school, to get advice.:thanks:
     
  14. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I work in the inner city. If I'm lucky enough to have parents that care, those parents are busy working 12 jobs to keep their kids housed and fed, so I STILL don't get parental back up.

    Quite simply, you have to be the parent. If they don't do it right, hand it back and make them re-do it. Dangle something they really like in front of them. It's amazing what power a scratch and sniff sticker holds (they get put on A papers...I forgot once and there was nearly a riot). Have escalating rewards. A week of homework earns something, a unit's worth of homework earns something even bigger, ect.
     
  15. shelceygirl

    shelceygirl Rookie

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    Apr 5, 2009

    Stop depending on parents and control only what you can control: the teaching and learning that goes on in your classroom. Find ways to make the learning happen when the kids are with you. If that means no homework, so be it. Make sure that your time is focused and that behavior issues are at a minimum so the time you DO have is used well.

    We teachers need to stop lamenting about our lack of support from home. Parents are the part of the equation we can't control, can't evaluate, and can't monitor. If they do not want to take responsibility for their children, we can't make them. We can, however, take responsibility for the learning that takes place in the time with have with students.
     

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