Thursday, July 06, 2006

failing my students

Frustration. That was my key word for today.

Some of my students are doing very well in our summer program and others… well not so much. I feel like I am hitting a wall with some of my students. Today i felt myself getting very short with some of them and not uplifting them.

About a third of my students are on the brink of failing one or more classes. Sometimes it is because they lack the skills-- it’s very difficult to try and make up for 10 years of poor education in 6 weeks. Other times it is because they lack resources. This year we are trying out Berkeley’s online community (similar to blackboard). Some of them do not have a computer, printer, or internet. BUT this is not a good excuse. They are on campus 5 days a week for 5 hours a day. Our office is always open and staffed, internet is on campus, and I bring my laptop to homeroom so students can type or use the internet. Sometimes they lack time. They work in the morning before coming to class and go to practice after class so they can’t utilize office hours to the fullest extent. Other times they just don’t care. They have the resources and time at the very least but still don’t post their questions online. They don’t read directions and miss a point by not initialing their math quiz. They have an hour for lunch but don’t go to office hours. But I don’t think they totally don’t care. They still come everyday to the program. Something is missing.

One thought is that they have difficulty transferring knowledge. The geometry class can use old quizzes, notes, and homework on their daily quizzes. My students have pretty decent homework grades. They show their work etc. However, they don’t seem to know HOW to refer to their notes and find a similar problem and utilize the same method for their quiz problem. I know that this is only one small element of a larger issue.

So yes, one frustration is my students. The other? The staff!

Every week the advisors (like me) get a weekly progress report on the status of the students. Our role as advisors is to facilitate tutoring, provide college-advising workshops, and share weekly progress reports with our students. Although this can be a great support network for students, it can also backfire. Some of our instructors seem to think that having advisors share weekly progress reports means that they (the instructors) don’t need to have conversations w/ the students regarding progress, effort, attitude, etc. It doesn’t really help if I tell students that their teacher said XYZ about them when the teacher has never talked about the issue with the students. When I ask teachers to talk to the student before I check in with the student, they often agree but fail to follow up.

So, when I sit in our weekly staff meetings and see the frustration building among teachers a part of me is not sympathetic, esp with those who do not follow-up with students. To be fair, some teachers do work with the students and they still fall behind. Even then, older teachers talk about how in previous years students were much stronger. I made it pretty damn clear who my students are, what their regular school is like. I KNOW my students are the ones who are struggling the most. Going to school in Richmond is no joke. It is under-resourced, overshadowed by Oakland USD, and overlooked. I did not hide that fact from anyone. This school is no joke. Some of the teachers do not assign homework b/c they believe the students won’t do it.

Our program’s student population is changing. Structurally we need to change our program to address the population or else we will fail our students. I have many ideas on this but know none of them will be implemented… I hate the politics of education.

As I said in the beginning I feel like i'm failing my students. At the end of my day I asked myself, Who am I giving up on? I wrote down their names, wrote 3 encouraging actions they have taken to remind myself (and also them) of some indication that they care to be at our program. Students, I am recommitting myself to you.

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