Tuesday, October 27, 2009

80%-- not really happening

one of my goals was for 80% of my kids to pass the Regent's this year. while i can already see that i have a higher percentage of high performing kids this year who i know will pass the Regent's with no problem, i have a much higher percent of special ed kids and no shows. and also kids that just can't do anything. literally.

some of the sped kids will pass. i'm working with them. but there are just a ton that don't have a shot in hell. i think if even the borderline kids pass, at most i will get a 75% pass rate. and i'm thinking it will be closer to 70%. it's a shame to fall so short of my goal, but there are some things i can't control, like the crack baby (teenager) who comes to school, fights, and then gets suspended or walks out every day, or the split personality boy who attempted to rape another student outside school and is on suspension indefinitely. then there's a girl who has potential; she shows some skills in math. but she is severely emotionally disturbed and acts as if the classroom is a jungle. her IEP calls for a para, but we still didn't get one for her yet. so she runs around the class like a chicken with no head while we're waiting for proper educational support services.

and there are more, so many more. i can only do so much. last year my students were overall at a lower level than this year, but at least they were almost all "workable." so we'll see what this year brings, but a lofty goal by august would probably look more like 75% passing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


i've got this inattentive kid in one of my classes. he has decent skills, but he doesn't do well because he tunes me out the entire period. then he copies off his groupmates in the last 5 minutes to get work done.

he's not passing. i told him this method will not work in my class. he suggested i do what is 8th grade teacher did. he didn't do his classwork, so for a make up, she gave him extra homework problems to count. then he got classwork credit for the day. he said this is the only way he was able to pass.

i told him he wasn't in baby school anymore and i would do no such thing. i can't believe a teacher would let a student show up every day, refuse to work, and then make it up each nice with a couple of textbook examples. talk about enabling laziness and poor work habits...

he came up with an idea that might help him do work in class. but i have a feeling it's going to take a long time before he's a productive student.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

i have a class that really cares about their grades. they are enormously competitive but at the same time they help each other out left and right. it's amazing to see. today i gave a test and they begged me to grade them on the spot. most of the class charged my desk when time was up to see how they did. they watched as i graded each and every paper waiting for them to be handed back out. there were two girls who were so anxious they were shaking.

so i graded the tests and gave them back out. after nearly everyone compared scores, something else happened. they grouped together on their own and not just compared answers but helped each other work through the examples they got wrong. in one group, a student even came up with some practice problems to give the other kids. they all took care to make sure their fellow classmates understood everything.

after this beautiful moment, a bunch of them wanted to know their averages now that a new test score was inputted. they wanted specifics. GPAs down to the nearest tenth. ranking in the class. the works. the top four students in the class are girls, and boy can they get catty. the class ended with the 97.6 average student telling the 97.8 that she wished the girl had failed so she could be #1 instead of #2. then #3 in the class, with only a 95.7 ripped up her test paper. the 92 she scored wasn't enough for her to keep the #2 spot and she was pissed. #4 in the class at least finally came to terms with her 93 average but she's still determined to be at least #3.

the competition is unbelievable. i tend to make the kids in my classes really competitive, but with just a little fuel from me, these kids have gone beyond what i've ever seen before. i can't say it's necessarily healthy because it bothered me to see the girl rip up her 92. it reminded me of my days in a specialized high school. i was a complete slacker with a 90 average.

however, i love to see the kids care so much. and by competing with each other, they're studying more, doing all their homework, complete angels in class, and constantly help out their classmates. the competition between the top four has also inspired others to compete with each other at various levels, and nearly each student is steadily raising their GPA. i'm not really sure how this happened; i guess i got lucky with a great mix of kids, but it's absolutely brilliant what's going on in that class.

Monday, October 19, 2009

i guess they do learn eventually (well some of them at least)

my worst offender from last year (who happens to be the same kid i kicked out of summer school on day one) is doing fabulous. he defied me in front of the whole class and the next day we gave him a suspension and had his parent come up. finally something clicked and he's on the right path in my class.

i failed the kid every single marking period last year and he was already failing one month into this school year. the day after his father came up he completely turned around. two weeks ago he got an 88 on the first class test. last week he proved to be the most helpful and useful member in his group day after day. he continued today and handed me in a stack of missing homework he completed over the weekend.

he's actually passing with a 78 now. there are four A students in his class, all girls. i have challenged him to represent the gentlemen in his class and show the girls where it's at. i don't know that he'll get there, but if he keeps this work up he'll come darn close. and boy do i hope he does because he can be a terror when he doesn't want to work!

Friday, October 16, 2009

fridays rule.

i tell my students on friday's that i'm even happier that the week is over than they are, and if i can control myself, then there's no reason they shouldn't be able to!

i love fridays so much. and many thanks to the scheduling gods that gave me the last period on friday as a prep. so i finish at 1pm.

first marking period is almost over. last time this year i had around a 50% passing rate. i have one class now with an 83% pass rate.

the ctt class is the only one under a 50% pass rate and sadly all the special ed kids in the class are failing. the sped teacher and i both believe that it's more of a behavioral and focus issue rather than difficult work or problems with differentiation.

so i started teams this week. i let them work in small, focused groups for the entire period. i teach a skill for maybe five minutes total and then they explore it and practice with their teammates. halfway through the hour i stop them and teach for another five minutes after which i expand their assignment. their team is graded on a 3 point rubric each day with one delegate responsible for making sure they earn their points. this focus, ownership, and lack of me actually trying to address the group as a whole has really helped. i've noticed a number of changes with the special ed students in the class and i suppose next week's test will help me see if this structure has been as effective as i think!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

great success! errr maybe not...

I gave a test last week and many students failed. I am very against giving extra credit work and I won't let the kids take the test home and fix it for credit either, because I know most of them will just copy answers. But I did tell them I would give another test this week on the same material with different questions. I gave them one week to relearn the material on their own and give it another shot.

Last year I offered a makeup test only once. Out of 40 failing students, two came and both failed again. I expected similar results this time. Yet today, out of about 30 students, nine came. And even better, out of the nine students that failed originally, five now passed. And better yet, of those that passed, one got an 80 and the other four got high 90s! These kids increased their averages by at least 20 points! I'm really proud of them and am glad that I have five more kids on board with me in class. And of course, success breeds success so I look forward to an upward trend with these kids.

I will consider giving make up tests more often because I don't care if it takes the students a second chance to get it right, nor if they come to rely on the make up as a crutch. The bottom line is that they have to learn the material and pass the Regent's and if this is an incentive for them to study on their own, so be it.

Now for the non-success... four of my former students, now 10th graders, stopped by my classroom after school. They were bored and when they saw I was giving a test, they wanted in on it. They claimed they would ace the exam. So I gave them one test and let the four of them group together outside the classroom and take it together.

I heard them murmuring... "slope.... i think you have to subtract something..." and "product... what's that?" Guess I didn't teach them well enough last year for them to retain the information!!! After 20 minutes the four boys handed me the exam and asked me to grade it. Even with all their collaboration, they scored a............ drumroll............ 63%!!!!! I totally reamed them for getting their butts kicked by more than half the 9th graders in the room. They told me they're going to come back and take more of my tests because they need to prove to me they know what they're doing! whatever floats their boat... but i personally love to see students who actually take an interest in academics. it's so refreshing!

Monday, October 5, 2009


even though i only slept two hours and taught a full load plus a per session class today, it turned out to be better than expected. some highlights:

- i took off a day last week and one girl asked me if i got her classes work that they completed while i was out. she was proud that they did an amazing job. well i checked and i was astounded. everyone completed the assignment with such precision and neatness which is uncharacteristic of my students. they all neatly stapled their graphs to their papers and labeled everything without being instructed to do so. i was so proud of them!

- a boy who complained about me being so boring that he can't learn ( 2 weeks ago) was so happy to be in my class today. i teased him and prodded him but with a ton of pushing he did his work successfully. i had him in three different classes today and by last period he tried to hug me multiple times but of course i left him hanging:) then he dutifully did his homework and copied down all the assignments he missed and started on them too. i guess he decided he likes me and will now work for me! i love when that happens.

-another student who can be somewhat problematic decided he's striving for a B so he buckled down today and did a ton of make up work. we'll see if this lasts!

- i scored another per session position. now i'm up to about 13 hours a month. i so need the money.

so this second year has been way better. and it's only looking up with a three day weekend coming up!