Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Helping Students Reach Their Potential

A Post on Student Achievement Best Practices

 By Monica Jones, ELA Consultant, Detroit Public Schools

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image courtesy of education-portal.com
“Why are you still here?”I asked him.

Bradford looks up at me with sad eyes, but his smile is magnetic. “I gotta pass this class.  Can I do some extra credit?”

His statement made the hair on my neck stick straight out. “Well I really don’t have any extra credit assignments that you could do. Perhaps if you came to my class every day you could catch up on all of your missed work.”

Bradford smiled again.  “I be tryin’, but I have to babysit.”

His statement gave a whole new ring to an age old problem; trying to meet the student where they are.  We don’t live in a perfect world, so as educators how can we expect perfect students? Student achievement relies on meeting the needs of each student which often times is difficult because the student isn’t there.  And after missing so many classes or days, it becomes impossible for the student to catch up.  This leads to everyone becoming dismayed and puts the student at risk for dropping out of school.  Excessive absenteeism can be the cause of why students are not reaching their full potential.

Now I’m not proposing that educators hold their heads and cast their eyes to the ground.  It can be done; but with patience and diligence. The 21st century student has evolved so that lecturing in front of a class for sixty to ninety minutes does not guarantee that loads of learning is taking place.  Educators must be cognizant of the various backgrounds  that are sitting in front of them and make strong efforts to ensure that lessons are being delivered that addresses  the needs of the students.   Lecturing, hands-on projects, student centered lessons are all pedagogies that can be used that have the potential of reaching each and every student across the academic spectrum.  But, of course, they have to be there in order to learn.

Getting back to Bradford, his problem was not that he needed academic or remedial help; he just needed a remedial attendance program.  I contacted his guardian, who happened to be his aunt, and explained the situation of why he was failing not only my class but two others.  Of course, she feinted shock and claimed to not realize that he was failing, but she was also not aware of our district’s attendance policy.  We met and she and Bradford verbally agreed that they would both make an effort to ensure that Bradford was in school and not at home babysitting.  Simple, right?  In this case it was.  Bradford and his aunt both kept their promises and by the end of the year Bradford went into his junior year with a 3.2 GPA.

The teaching profession, unfortunately, doesn’t always teeter on the norm.  Some days are better than others.   I once had an eighth grader who brought her three year old cousin to school because there was no one to babysit.  Am I a daycare now?  Because the last time I looked at my check I was not receiving daycare pay for each student.   I took a deep breath and gently nudged her and her toddler cousin towards the counseling suite.  “No sweety.  Your little cousin can’t stay with you while you’re in class today.”   Unfortunately, my student had to be sent home that day because why…she had to babysit.

From the ritzy suburban school of choice to the decaying urban school on the corner, there are going to be students who are at risk of failing because they just don’t come to school.  And often times, they want to, but they have other distractions that prevent them from being in a chair everyday that the school door opens.  As conscientious educators, we must carve out some time during our much needed prep and at least attempt to get to the root of why all the chairs are not filled in our classrooms.  It has often been said, that one of the perks of teaching is once the bell rings, you can close your door and do your thing.  But when the bell rings and your door is closed and you are looking at far too many empty seats, that is a sign of a serious gap. Those empty seats represent a person who is entitled to an education and unfortunately, they are not there to receive it.

1 comment:

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