This has been one of those weeks.
Maybe it is because my students have spring fever with break right around the corner, and it is beautiful outside (some days…when the tornadoes take a break). But just maybe it is because I am focused on the year-end test that tells the teacher “gods” what kind of teacher I am. I consider myself a caring, empathetic, motivating teacher that truly wants to see my students each do their personal best on a daily basis. I realize the year-end test means more to me than it does to many of my students, but I also want them to view it as an accomplishment. If they pass the test, they can have pride in knowing their effort paid off. If they improve over last year, they can build self-confidence and realize they can be successful. But what about those students who really don’t care how they do on a test? What about those students who say, “I like to go to summer school. That way I get lunch during the summer”. I cannot compete with meeting a student’s basic needs like food.
It is good to motivate students!
Teachers spend countless hours planning meaningful lessons incorporating music, videos, technology, cooperative learning and many other creative means of educating and entertaining. The majority of my students respond well, with excitement some days. It is evident some of my students have made great strides in math progress this year and I try to hold on to those “happy spots” and help them also to recognize how their attitude and effort have helped them to make such improvements. I love how many of my students stay after school for an extra 90-minutes of math tutoring twice a week to help get extra practice on past math concepts. They inspire me.
But then I feel the tug of futility.
It happens to many of us at some point. I have about 6 students in my classes who don’t care about learning, and I struggle with keeping positive while watching a student refuse to try. Is it because they don’t have food to eat? Is it because mom just went back to jail for the third time? Is it because they are living with family until their house is repaired after the tornado? Is it because they hate me? Is it because they hate math? They may not always like me, but I believe they know I care. They tell me I explain it and make things easier for them to understand and my class is fun sometimes. So, what? Is it because the student’s parents are in the process of getting divorced? Is it because the child lives with grandma and never gets to see mom or dad? Is it because the child has no friends? How can I compete with all of these surrounding, important, issues in a student’s life? How can I make them see this is an opportunity for them to have some control in one small part of their world?
What is the solution?
I am still searching for the solution. I hope for some form of student and/or parent accountability for those cases where students can learn, but choose not to try. I focus on those students who do care. I network with an amazing PLN that offers suggestions, support, empathy, and just “listens”. I try to be a blessing in some way to each student, even if it isn’t in regards to learning math. This is why I became a middle school math teacher initially, and this is what I love about teaching. I can show students I care and help be a positive influence on them. I will try to focus on this goal of “reaching each student”, realizing it may not mean they will succeed by reaching a mandated score on a year-end test. I hope that happens too, but really it is the student that is most important.
A resource I enjoyed, and I think you will too:
CoolCatTeacher had a wonderful blog this Monday that was very helpful in offering a renewal that I needed. Visit the blog and see if you, too, gain a lot from her great words. Thanks Vickie!
Please comment and let me know how you deal with the year-end stress of tests, and how you motivate those hard-to-reach students! Thanks!