For the first time in my career, I find myself seriously wondering "What do I do with these kids?" After receiving fifty percent of my seniors' Post High School Goals essay, I quickly realized that for this group, a three to four hundred word essay is difficult. Well, not just difficult, but well beyond their range of skill.
Knowing that I couldn't just forge ahead, I regrouped to have them write a one paragraph response to a short story. At this point, still with only fifty percent having done the assignment, I again found myself confused. Half of the group wrote decent content (though their grammar was atrocious), and the other half didn't seem to have a clue about how to approach the prompt--their grammar even more atrocious.
This morning I had them copy a paragraph from the board. Our purpose: to examine the elements of a well-developed paragraph. Many refused to do such a simple task because the paragraph was "too fucking long."
On the way home, my wife asked me what she should do with her students who refuse to do any work. I gave her two answers. The theorists would say that it is our job to convince, persuade, or motivate those students to learn; and, that if our lessons were only relevant, there wouldn't be these issues. We should differentiate our instruction for those who care about and value the assignment and those who don't give a shit.
The other response, coming from a teacher who is agonizing over ways to convince his seniors that the ability to write a paragraph is necessary said to inform them of their right to fail. I mean, if the police are required of our right to remain silent so that we don't say anything stupid--thus getting us into trouble, we should also be required to inform our students of their right to remain ignorant--thus relegating them to a life of poverty.
I am only a few weeks into this new position and I am anxious about my ability to succeed here. I have never failed as a teacher, but here, I feel like a failure on a daily basis. The theorist in me blames my inability to connect or motivate or whatever; the realist in me blames the students' parents for not creating an environment that values education.
So, because this blog is also a way to learn from each other, I am truly asking for words of advice on how to approach low achieving students in a high poverty area. I don't know that I have the skill set to succeed.