Too Many Failures

Discussion in 'New Teachers' started by Raye, Apr 28, 2009.

  1. Raye

    Raye Rookie

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2009
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 28, 2009

    I don't know whether or not to blame myself about this, but right now, there are a lot of failing students in my classes. I'm just student teaching with 10th grade English and began at the beginning of fourth quarter about three weeks ago. Already about 60% of the students are geting F's for a variety of reasons which I'll explain. After being in the school from the beginning of the Spring semester, it really seems that my cooperating teacher's English course is on the bottom of the totem pole in regards to important courses the students care about passing. I have no idea why. Maybe it's because they think they can pass even if they don't do their work, since I saw last quarter how my cooperating teacher gave students full credit the day before we went on break for work that was way past the due date as long as they could show it to him.

    One thing I kept consistent with my cooperating teacher's curriculum was to have students do a reflection every week equivalent to one quiz grade. We do random folder checks at the beginning of certain weeks to see whether or not the students did them, and most times they don't despite being given class time to work on them, several reminders on the board and on my CT's web page, and having the weekend to finish it. This is practically the only homework they ever get because they aren't allowed to take home the textbooks since apparently someone stole one at the beginning of the school year.

    There are weekly quizzes and because some students are absent on the day they're given, they don't receive credit for them. We allow students to come in and make up their quizzes if they missed them, but very few students actually follow through with that and that really hurts their grade. Even if they received a 50% on the quiz, it would still boost them up to a C or D as long as they do their reflections.

    Today was supposed to be dedicated to presentations and the turnout was quite pathetic, and that's saying it nicely. I received all kinds of excuses, like how they didn't know about it, how they didn't understand what they were supposed to do, and was even told straight-up that they didn't care about the assignment due to priorities like their part-time job or projects for other courses. I had a number of students asking how they could make it up and I told them that they could do an alternate assignment but not receive full credit for it. Many of them decided to take the zero instead. They had four days (including the weekend) to work on the presentation, which included writing a one page paper about why they chose a song that would be considered the theme of a character in the novel we are reading and an oral presentation in which they'd present the song. Though I told the students that if they did not write a paper, they could not present. As a result, maybe 30% of the students made their presentations while the rest failed right off the bat.

    So now I'm wondering if I'm the one at fault here. My cooperating teacher told me not to worry about it because it's the students' choice whether or not they want to do the work because it is their grade in the end, but I'm concerned because when I do go out and have my own classroom, I fear that this may repeat and I'll have a lot of failing students, which definitely would not reflect well in the eyes of my future administration. When I was a student and didn't do well in a class, I always thought that if everyone else was failing, the teacher must not be a very good one. I know that I'm in the beginning phase of my teaching career, but I'm just wondering if other people think that I'm the one who should be blamed for the tremendous amount of low grades or if it's just the students' fault for being so lazy and unmotivated?
     
  2.  
  3. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Messages:
    14,468
    Likes Received:
    2,485

    Apr 28, 2009

    If students are doing the work or trying to do the work and are still failing, you need to fix that.

    If students aren't doing the work or aren't trying to do the work, that's sort of on them.

    I have a fair number of Fs in my gradebook even as we speak. I will bend over backwards to help the students who want to be helped....If I didn't teach them the right way or the way they needed to be taught, I'll take responsibility for that and I'll do my best to repair the situation.

    But for the students who have 0% or 3% or something ridiculous like that, that's on them. There's only so much the teacher can do. You can lead a horse to water....
     
  4. Raye

    Raye Rookie

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2009
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 29, 2009

    Thank you for your response Cassie. It makes me feel a little better that it isn't entirely my fault for the amount of low grades.

    Very few of the students actually care about their grades, and I'm guessing it's because it's the fourth quarter and all. The majority of the failing students choose not to do their work. Heck, for the essay portion of our state's assessment exams, the students drew pictures in the provided answer boxes, so I guess that shows how much they care about that.

    I remind them that if they need any help, they can always see me during recess, lunch, or after school but very rarely does anyone show up. I think it's just ridiculous that some students think they can miss a day of class and get away with it. Only one student who was absent a couple of days actually came during one of the break periods to make up his work, and that shows me he cares. It's funny that the students actually start to get concerned once the quarter winds down, but I won't be around that time since my student teaching ends next week and there's three more weeks left in the school year after that.
     
  5. BioTeal

    BioTeal Rookie

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2008
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 29, 2009

    Don't frame this situation as a way to assign blame/shame/guilt. Frame it as an opportunity to reflect and then refine your lessons for next year.

    For something as involved as a presentation + paper assignment, a lot of students lack the organization skills to break down the work into manageable steps. I wouldn't classify that pattern as something that is any individual teacher's "fault", but it's something to look for early and if you recognize it (typically the failure to answer a "what's your next step on your project Jimmy?" type question) you may be able to help those students with planning/ time management tips before they get to the point of showing up with no paper/presentation.

    On the motivation front, while you theoretically can help influence motivation in many ways, ultimately it has to come from the students. Placing full blame for motivation on anyone besides the individual who chose their own actions is a cop-out.

    One potential "language" improvement you could try to help motivate early on (stolen from Kegan & Lahey's "How the way We Talk can Change the way We Work") is to focus positive feedback on your perceptions of very specific actions (eg. "I was persuaded by this sentence.") in place of general praise (eg. "you can do it."). Students struggling with self-esteem / self-efficacy have a hard time discounting the former, and an easy time discounting the latter. The impact of your specific feedback will depend on how much the student values your opinion, which will vary.

    Suggestions for boosting confidence/motivation presume a student's sense of competence is still developing - you might want to find out if any of the students who earned Fs applied themselves more in other classrooms, why they have different levels of motivation for different classes, and focus on how you might better motivate similar cases in the future. Bottom line: don't miss out on a legitimate opportunity for professional growth, but stay positive.

    If you end up convinced that you made a full fledged "mistake" somewhere, just remember that mistakes are inevitable. To quote Twyla Tharp: "If Leonardo and Beethoven and Goethe failed on occasion, what makes you think you'll be the exception?" :p
     
  6. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2007
    Messages:
    3,642
    Likes Received:
    108

    May 2, 2009

    Something I'm going to start doing next year is personal conferences on the science notebooks each student is making in my class. If you could even spend 5 minutes while they're working on their projects independently with each student to review, praise, and provide support to them--- that may motivate them to do better.

    You can truly only do so much, but perhaps a little encouragement and support would be useful to have the students perform better next year.
     
  7. time2teach

    time2teach Companion

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2008
    Messages:
    168
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 2, 2009

    Remember too they are high school and you are a "student" teacher. They are being totally disrespectful of you. They probably think "your not a "real" teacher yet" so they aren't going to cooperate. Let them get what they deserve! And remember when you have your own class you will be able to set the requirements and get them to take the class seriously.

    If the teacher is OK with it, then so be it. They deserve to fail if they won't put forth any effort.
     
  8. ku_alum

    ku_alum Aficionado

    Joined:
    May 24, 2008
    Messages:
    3,513
    Likes Received:
    14

    May 2, 2009

    Make sure parents are informed. Getting an F on a grade card with no prior notification to the parent doesn't fly in my school.
     
  9. Raye

    Raye Rookie

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2009
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 4, 2009

    We have the grades online, so parents are aware whether or not their child is failing. Because of that, the other teachers in my department say that notification of failures do not need to be reported to parents individually. One student came into our room last Friday saying that she wanted to raise her grade and complete any missing assignments or else her mom wouldn't let her go out on the weekend. :| She's one of the many who has an F, and I explained to her that even if she had all of the work needed in her portfolio/folder, she could not receive the full credit because she did have it all in when we collected it to grade (that's my CT's policy). I was really ticked off when she told me "I didn't hear you when you called for all the folders! I never hear you speak!" My CT and I both snapped at her because she is always, ALWAYS talking to her friend. To make things worse, I'm usually right next to her most of the time when I make announcements and such because she's so off-task and I have to constantly monitor her behavior.
     
  10. ku_alum

    ku_alum Aficionado

    Joined:
    May 24, 2008
    Messages:
    3,513
    Likes Received:
    14

    May 4, 2009

    We do online grades, too. But we are still required to notify Fs. Particularly a class required for graduation that could result in summer school. An online grade doesn't necessarily mean a parent is informed.

    You're dealing with typical HS student stuff. When it comes to event like turning in portfolios I have it written down on the board, I make a statement about it on bell work, etc. I send emails to students. I make it impossible for students to not be aware (excuse prevention).
     
  11. VT-HI-PATeacher

    VT-HI-PATeacher Rookie

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2008
    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 4, 2009

    I see that you are teaching in Hawai'i, which island and district may I ask? I taught in the leeward district for a year and had the same problems you face now. What it came down to was that many of my kids had way more important things to do besides Algebra I like work, babysit their brothers/sister/other little ones, care for elderly or find a place o sleep at night.
     
  12. Raye

    Raye Rookie

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2009
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 7, 2009

    I live on Oahu and am doing my student teaching in the Leeward district. I can guess at where you taught at, but none of my students face problems like homelessness or anything to that extreme. It's just that they have other priorities in their life and they definitely are not set straight, which can be frustrating when you would like them to be organized. It's weird though because one period is definitely doing much better than all the others and they are not on a different track or anything.
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

Total: 315 (members: 0, guests: 295, robots: 20)
test