Think about the last time you were so far behind in a class that you gave up. Think about that happening year after year until you get so far under your expectations that giving up would be an improvement. As teachers, a minute percentage of us have been there. I haven't, so I'm not in any position to hypothesize what we could be doing to get a student like that caught up.
To briefly describe our panel, we had an assistant principal who is a rockstar and loves listening to student voice, a junior male English Language Learner (we will call him A), a sophomore female English Language Learner (we will call him B), and a junior male (we will call him C), along with myself.
At what point did math lose its relevance to you and why?
A: 7th grade because I had a teacher who didn't answer my questions or care about us
B: 9th grade because I had a teacher who wouldn't explain, even if we asked for help
C: 7th grade because my dad left and I didn't see the need to keep doing my work
What problems do you currently see with the way that school is run?
A: It starts too early (we start at 7:30)
B: It's whatever, I think it's fine, but I just talk too much to my friends. I like to socialize
C: It isn't fun. I liked math in 9th grade because I had a teacher who would explain things really well and I had him for two periods
What are some ways that we could make school more meaningful?
A: Use more technology. I like going on YouTube and learning things from there. Have teachers use more videos in class. Give students the option of failing. Some people just want to fail and you should let them.
B: I don't know, I think it's fine, I like coming to school to hang out with my friends and talk to them.
C: Put technology into the classrooms. Play more games and make things. Maybe every other week you could have a day where we just play games. They would be related to what we're doing, you know, but games. Use the "European Grading" system (when probed about this a bit more, it was the 4-point scale that he was talking about. Where did he learn about it? Twitter).
When asked about the importance of math, all of them were quick to justify the necessity for mathematics in their life. Their examples were mostly for monetary examples, but C was planning on being a mechanic and playing on the need for basic math in that profession. None of them discounted math as something they would never need.
Student A is an introvert and extremely reserved, but he gave some good insight in the meeting. The later start is something that many educators have wrestled with for years. Is it time that we take a look at it again? Yes.
Student B is aware of her Social Butterflysims that are keeping her from being successful, but doesn't seem destined to make that change. She doesn't want to do homework when she gets home because she just likes to sit in her room. I have to wonder if there's something else going on here. When asked why she struggles in my class, she admitted that she zones out. How do we help a student who isn't controlling her own attention span? Apparently I need to be more engaging...?
Student C is the real challenge. After dad left (and I'm sure many things have happened since then as a result), school has been the last thing on his mind. I wish there was more I could put into a blog post about him, but I can't. He seemed to want to help during the meeting, but kept his reservations about his responses. How can we as teachers expect to earn the trust of a kid that we've known for ~60 days when the man he (presumably) knew as a role model walked out on him and his family? Try as I may, this seems like a battle I will never "win".
Overall, it was a productive meeting:
- Review the starting time of school
- Integrate current technology into the classroom to engage students
- It is imperative to have high quality teachers throughout a child's career. If there is a teacher making a negative impact on a percentage of students, he/she needs to be reevaluated. Many of our students develop a distaste for math because of a bad experience. This is unfortunate
- Kids need a chance to play. Create activities that allow them this time
- Give students an option of a second period of mathematics during the school day. I think we would be surprised to see who signs up
- Look at the way that we grade on the 100-point scale