Friday, January 29, 2010

The Obnoxious Folder

Anyone remember Elf Boy? He's a tiny little guy in my 5th period who, from what we can tell from previous test scores and grades, is really quite capable but who turns in ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Nothing at all. He has one of the lowest grades out of all the kids in my classes. He never needs to be told to fill out the "why I didn't have my homework" slip and nine times out of ten his explanation is "lost it" or "forgot it at home". He must fill out about a dozen of these a week in between all his classes. He did get enrolled in after school tutoring and his tutoring teacher is, thankfully, snatching all his completed work as soon as it's done and putting it in my mailbox so I can disburse it to the rest of the teachers on The Team.

I've been trying to get a hold of mom for months to get a meeting set up and finally - finally! - this week she actually returned a phone call. She couldn't come in for a meeting due to her job, but she could do a teleconference. So, I set one up and we called her, put her on speakerphone and we all had a nice chat about Elf Boy and his grades.

Mom seemed very nice, and sweet, and very concerned that although she sees him "do all his homework and put it in his binder/bookbag", she doesn't have any idea why none of it gets turned in. None at all.

So, we put in a plan something that has worked well in the past - The Obnoxious Folder. The Obnoxious Folder is the brightest, garish, most eye-popping folder with pockets that we can find which is to go home with Darling Cherub every night. Cherub does homework and it all goes into the Obnoxious Folder. The parent is supposed to supervise, and in some cases staple, to make sure the work is Done and In The Folder. The parent then makes sure the folder, which is obnoxiously garish and loud, is then placed into the bookbag which is usually deep, dark and has some of the same properties as black holes. The idea is that the folder is so obnoxious it can't get lost - like all the homework has been doing for the past year. The next morning the first thing this child does after he/she arrives at school is to personally hand me the folder. I usually snatch them up during hall duty when I see them walk in from the buses, and make the kid stop, open the backpack and fish out the folder. At that point, I empty the folder, give it back to the cherub and send him and her off on their merry way.

This has worked pretty well in the past because I now have custody of the work, and it takes me a minute or so to deliver it to the teachers who assigned it. No big deal as I usually have to check in and talk to them about something anyway. If I'm short on time, I put it in the mailboxes.

Well, Elf Mom loved this idea. I had given Elf Boy a BRIGHT YELLOW folder the day before and she was going to make sure he had it EVERY NIGHT and she'd make sure he put all his finished work in it EVERY NIGHT, and that he'd hand it to me EVERY MORNING, and life would be wonderful because finally, finally, finally, Elf Boy would turn in his assignments. Elf Mom is ecstatic because this is a great idea, it's something she could do, and it will solve all her problems.

Except it's not working out that way.

Most mornings when I intercept Elf Boy in the hallway, he has his yellow folder. It is EMPTY. And those are on the mornings he remembers to bring it back to school. I asked him if his mom was watching him put his work in the folder like she said she would and he hems and haws, and finally admits that no, she's not checking on him. He can't understand why the work isn't there. (Elves again?) Like mom, he swears he's doing it.

Really now.

So Elf Mom, who promised she'd watch him put all the homework she sees him do every night into his folder...hasn't even managed to do that for one single day. Not one. Two weeks now and the only thing this folder is getting is banged up from going in and out of the backpack every day.

(Any guess on who's going to be held accountable for this kid's education? Let me clue you won't be him and it won't be his mom.)

I got with Mrs. Reading Teacher a few days ago to discuss the folder issue. Her comment? "I sort of thought about sending a stapler home to help her staple his work to the folder, but I'm not sure that would even work."

Sad to say, she's probably right.


bun2bon said...

Wow. In a case like this, I almost want to send an Obnoxious Hidden Camera home with the Obnoxious folder to find out the real scoop.

Theresa Milstein said...

Being a teacher is sometimes like being an emergency room doctor told to save a patient who is bleeding from a gunshot wound, but is given a spork and some silly putty to fix it.

R2P2 said...

Guess it shouldn't be such a big surprise -- the apple doesn't fall far from the tree & all that.

Cathryn said...

Does your school have a social worker? I'd call him/her and ask for help. Something's going on at home and obviously this child and his mother need help. said...

The child is the way he is because of the parent he has. I have learned this in 21 years of teaching. Yet, as you pointed out, it's all YOUR fault. You will be the one accused, in the press, of being a bad teacher and if you did your job correctly, that child would graduate with honors.

Darren said...

Sometimes blaming the teacher is appropriate, but not always. Probably not even often.