Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Somewhat problematic

The field of education often presents somewhat problematic dilemnas--like how to spell that word. Is it dilemma or dilemna? Anyway, what makes our profession profoundly unique is the vast array of problems facing our "market." Very few parents, and fewer still of our "customers," have the the faintest idea about what will satisfy them. Even greater still are the array of solutions to our unique problems. So much so that now education theorists would like each individual student to have a uniquely customized education.
Here's my dilemna (yes, that spelling is my preferred version): two young ladies came to me following class asking which period I taught my Honors English 10 course. As all of my students from previous years know, I do not teach different material for Honors, College Prep, and Fundamental level courses. I believe that all students deserve the best chance to attend college; therefore, I give them all the same material--a college prep curriculum. However, there are serious differences between the style of teaching. More importantly, there are serious differences between the students' approach to each level.
Many of my fundamental level students do not know how to behave in the classroom. They talk out of turn, get up out of their seats, use profanity, and generally don't give a flying...well, you know. I spend entirely too much effort on getting students to "buy in." In the end, I suppose we will find some success if I can manage to get more moments of "buy in" than not.
My college prep students don't have the slightest idea of what they need to accomplish in order to attend college, but somewhere along the way a teacher or parent convinced them of the need for a college education. They generally know how to behave appropriately and generally use more appropriate language. A few are intellectually beyond themselves if true tracking were taking place. But they are not problems and so end up in a College Prep course with other students who are average to above average in ability.
The Honors, those generally rich white kids, know how to behave appropriately, know how to study, and know how to play the game. I wouldn't say their intellectual capacity on the whole is something to pull a Tom Cruise and jump on Oprah's couch about, but they are smart enough.
Anyway these two young ladies belong in a run-of-the-mill College Prep class if it were tracked appropriately and not just about the "well-behaved." But they are sensing that too many of their classmates are intellectually inferior. They are slightly bothered by the amount of time I do have to spend on classroom management.
But if I am being honest, I want them to stay in the College Prep track because, well, that is really where they belong, but more honestly, I need their influence in the College Prep class. They will get buried in an honors course with intellectually superior students. They will disappear. Yet, how can I deny that they might have a better go of it in an honors course where they are rising to the level above them?


At 1:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should not deny them the opportunity to challenge themselves in another class. While I understand your need for peer mentors in you class (c.p), you are obligated to challenge students at the highest level possible. Are you sure they will not rise up in an honors class? Will you be undermining their education by keeping them where they are?

At 12:19 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Oh, I definitely let them move.


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