Friday, September 28, 2007

What? You Mean We Actually Get an Aide?

Our school this year is blessed, for the first time, with an aide for each team. That's nine new aides hired this year and some of us are still pinching ourselves to make sure it's real. I guess they're lucky we aren't pinching the aides just to make sure we aren't hallucinating. We used to go to these silly workshops where they would teach us "how to work with your aide" and we all used to roll our eyes and snort, "what freaking aide?" under our breath. But now, amazingly enough, we have real honest to goodness aides.

Our Aide, Mr. Title, has been around the building a few years, mainly as a long-term substitute. He's a delightful young man with INFINITE patience. You have to have infinite patience to deal with some of the characters he spends most of his day working with. He spends his day focusing on a core group of kids that have been targeted as our most at-risk. Most of these kids were non-academically promoted last year and are, yet again, struggling this year. They aren't special education, but have other issues - usually a lack of motivation and a home life that isn't the most supportive (just to be nice).

Mr. Title usually comes to my fifth period class. My fifth period class is one of my smallest, with 19 kids (I know, that's another story - our class sizes have dropped), but it's definitely my lowest. I just input grades yesterday and noticed that my highest grade for 5th period is a C. I have eleven students failing that class. In the five years I have been at The School, I have never had a class that consistently low (and the one special education student in that class is one of my top students). I am giving modified tests and quizzes to over half the kids in this class and they're still failing.

Mr. Title has, at times, shown a few cracks in his armor of Infinite Patience. For example, the Big Homework Issue. Out of the nine kids on the team that have his study skills class later in the day, only one of them turned in homework last week. The other eight laid a big ol' goose egg. Again.

Now this year, I have most of my kids turning in homework. In fact, so few of them are NOT turning in homework that both Mr. Social Studies and I actually have the time to email or call the parents of the few who consistently don't perform in this area. Homework for the seventh grade science teachers is so easy it's ridiculous. They get four assignments on Monday, chose which two they want to do, and turn them in on Friday. It gets even easier...we actually have available on the work table, in sheet protectors, the keys to the homework so that kids can check their work - and gasp! copy - if need be. (The reasoning behind this is another post I'll do soon). So, in reality, there's no reason why anyone should not be turning in homework.

Unless you're nothing but an unmotivated slug.

Mr. Title checked with me again today about whether or not his eight slugs managed to get their homework turned in from the previous week (I said I'd take partial credit). When I told him that not one had bothered, he looked like he was going to bang his head into the closest wall.

"Good gracious, your homework is so easy it's insane! How can they not be turning it in?"

Ah, the million dollar question, isn't it?

Interestingly enough, I've already taken most of these students to the support team and one thing I found in the files was that nearly all of them had family histories of drug and alcohol problems and/or parents who's highest educational level attained was either ninth or tenth grade.

A connection?


HappyChyck said...

Families who don't value education? I've had students whose families have the same backgrounds, and it really depends on what is being said at home, doesn't it? If parents encourage their children to choose different paths than they have, I sometimes see a difference.

Congrats on an aide. I hope he keeps his infinite patience with your poor little slugs.

loonyhiker said...

I can understand your frustration. Have you tried peer pressure? Maybe have a reward if all of that group turns in their homework. Of course, you want to do all you can to help them be successful the first time so they can enjoy the reward and they will know you mean it. Then the next time they may show even more effort.

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Actually, I'm not the one that's frustrated - it's Mr. Title. From my perspective I have the highest turn-in percentage for homework that I've had in years. Mr. Title is working with our at-risk kids, many of whom see no point in being in school when they can be out on the streets selling drugs and stealing cars like their "heroes" are doing. This is a group that just does not see the value of education. Peer pressure, from kids who do the right thing, mean nothing. Now, if we could get some gang-bangers in there to tell them the value of education, they may actually work. What you have with these kids, sadly, is a generation who have chosen to place their respect and admiration at the feet of society's criminals.