Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 19 2007

second rough day in a row

It’s a mark of how bad the past two days have been that I’m taking the time to write in here for the second day in a row. The discord from yesterday carried over to today as I showed students their current grades. Even though they’re all at least a letter grade above what the students should have (at least given their test and quiz scores), some of the students were still dissatisfied. One girl in my first period, who always has a little bit of an attitude and who was one of the ringleaders of yesterday’s bitching session, saw that she got a D (because she’d failed all three tests and quizzes) and proceeded to throw a fit, yelling “fuck that! fuck this class!” and refusing to sit down or be quiet when I asked her to calm down. She eventually grabbed her stuff and stormed out of the classroom. She returned about two minutes later because she’d had the misfortune to run into our principal in the hall, and he sent her back. I did what I’m supposed to do if something like that happens: I wrote her up and referred her to her administrator. It’s not that I particularly dislike this student; I admire her spirit and think if she put it to better use, she could really get far in life. But there’s no arguing that you can’t act like that, especially given that she had the opportunity to retake her test to get a higher score and chose not to take advantage of that.
This afternoon at the end of the day, Dashara returned to my room crying and told me that she’d been suspended for three days. I was surprised; that seems like quite a harsh punishment to me. She proceeded to tell me through her tears, “Ms. Wergin, you have no idea how hard it’s been for me this year! I’ve been so much better than last year; I’m really trying hard. I’m coming to school; I was trying not to get suspended, and they’re already sending me home! I’m so frustrated because I am trying hard in your class and getting a D… why am I trying so hard and getting sent home? I was going to come to you and apologize at the end of the day anyway.” I felt so bad seeing her that distressed; I nearly started crying with her. I know that I did the right thing (you can’t let behavior like that go unpunished), but I wish I’d had more control over what punishment she received, and I wish I could have sat down with her and really had a talk about her behavior and how I can help her to do better. And the problem with suspension is that it doesn’t help the student not to be in school! They’re allowed to make up their work, but they get behind from not being in class.
I don’t think Dashara is trying as hard as she thinks she is, but I can understand how it’s hard for kids who’ve never been forced to work hard to suddenly figure that out. It’s clear my students lack study and test-taking skills, so I’m going to do some research and try to bring them up to speed. From today’s tests that I’ve graded so far, I can tell I still have my work cut out for me. A few of my students are still leaving massive amounts of tests and quizzes blank; they just seem unable to remember words in Spanish. I need to really work on my teaching so that they can all learn. I just wish I knew how to reach all of them…

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    D.C. Region
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