Friday, April 10, 2009

Getting Help

At what point does helping a student become hurtful to the student? Here are two scenarios:

1. An elementary aged student turns in an English Language Arts assignment on verbs but gets none of the answers correct. She's having trouble identifying the verbs. Nouns and pronouns are not a problem, just those pesky verbs. The student stays after school for the afternoon homework club where she will get some extra help from one of the other teachers on your team. The following day, the student hands in the completed assignment with all of the answers correct.
When you ask the student a few follow-up questions about verbs, you quickly realize they still can't identify them. "I don't understand," you say. "How did you get all of the answers correct on the assignment?"
"Mr. X helped me," she says. "He told me the answers because I needed help."

2. A high school aged student disrupts class on a regular basis. He doesn't want to participate and often derails the class with his antics. You have to kick him out of class regularly in order to keep the progress moving for the other students. When he actually stays in class, his skill level is near or at standard.
One day, near the end of the quarter, he is acting up and refusing to do the assignment. "It doesn't matter anyway," he laments. "I'm going to fail no matter what."
"That's not true," you tell him. "Listen, you have shown that you are capable, so let's make a deal. If you can come to class, participate, and complete assignments during fourth quarter, I will not count all of the missing assignments from third quarter. You will pass for the semester."

Are either of these two scenarios good examples of helping a student?


At 9:57 AM , Blogger Ms. V. said...

The last situation frustrates me more than anything. I think we are teaching kids they can do nothing until crunch time. You have no idea how many kids want to cut a deal with me the last two weeks of our session.

It has to be pretty tough circumstances for me to agree...The alternative is to welcome them back, and help them start the next session refreshed and focused.

At 6:50 PM , Blogger Amerloc said...

I understand where you're coming from, Ms. V - been there, rode that pony, etc.

I'm going to disagree anyway, though. In the first instance, the kid learns squat. She never figured out how to isolate the verb.

In the second case, the kid learns that if, IF, he can hold his act together consistently over a relatively long time (for a kid), a way can be found to forgive past transgressions. I struggle to find that as objectionable as you seem to.

Now, is there potential that both kids are just figuring out ways to game the system? Of course.

I'm still going to give the teacher in the second scenario credit for having a better handle on what's going on than the elementary teacher who just does the kid's homework for her.

At 9:00 AM , Anonymous Jude said...

Of the course the first scenario is pathetic, but the chance-giving scenario is a better one. I have two sons, one who's always had straight "As" and the other who has "selectively produced" anything from an F to an A depending upon how upset he is with the teacher or disinterested in the subject. He's on an ALP, and because he said that he was interested in doing better this school year, I added an incentive to help him do that. Each son who gets straight As and has no more than 3 absences for illness during the year can earn an iPod Touch. Could my son do that? No. He screwed up in the first semester, doing slightly better overall, but still getting two Fs. But *this* semester, he had his first passing report card since fifth grade: 4 As, 1 B, 1 C, and 1 D+ He was so far behind in Spanish that she's now treating it as an independent study, but he's working hard to catch up. He asked me, "If I get my grades all the way up to As and Bs by the end of the school year, can I still get an iPod touch?" I'm still not sure. That wasn't our original deal, but he's turned himself around so much in the last school year. He's taking two percussion lessons a week, playing for the school musical, finally attending school field trips because he isn't ineligible, doing more work around the house, and he actually returned $6.00 to me in change which I wouldn't have known he'd kept. It's sort of like situation two. In college, you get to start over each semester. You get to re-create yourself. I see situation two as a valid incentive. It's up to that student--can he really maintain good behavior and get the work done? In what way does the offer hurt? I'm still thinking....

At 1:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the student shouldn't be kicked out of class regularly. There must be a more successful strategy.


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