Saturday, October 01, 2005

Good Morning, This Is Your Wake-Up Call

The 7th graders at our 7-8 school have come in more unruly and ridiculous than any we've seen since the days of like a half-dozen kids in every class with a Parole Officer. Maybe just the ebb and flow of these things, or maybe too many feeder schools putting weak-ass teachers in the sixth grade. Regardless, we had a Let's Go Assembly that focused on behavior, attendance, tardies, and academic performance. When the kids come back into class I have the percentage of 8th graders who are proficient/advanced in Language Arts (40) the percentage of 7th graders likewise (26) and then the percentage of my class (covered). I ask for predictions, and they average out at about 20%. Then I take the post-it note off:


And their mouths hit the floor.

Advanced = 0%
Proficient = 0%
Basic = 0%
Below Basic = 33%
Far Below Basic = 66%

Then I show em the big number.

Percentage of students who got worse last year = 75%.

Now, it's really quiet. They have a look on their face like they can't believe it, and I am momentarily incensed that this is news to them, that somehow they made it through seven years of schooling without anyone mentioning, oh by the way, your academic abilities are woefully inept, perhaps you'd like to make some improvements. How can they get to this point, five years behind grade level, a fact I cannot escape, ever, and have simply no idea, none, so that they stare at me in shock and awe? It's so quiet.

Maybe you understand a little better why I was so upset yesterday, I say. When I see uncompleted homework, I think of these numbers. When I see wasted time, I think of these numbers. When I see students working just to get something done, rather than working for excellence, I think of these numbers. When I see students acting like school is here for them to hang-out, I think of these numbers. This is not good, I tell them. This is pretty bad, I say.

I wait, and their eyes are huge, especially the pobrecitas who in elementary always volunteered to erase the boards or pass out papers and never made trouble so their teachers ignored the fact they couldn't read or write. You can think of it two ways, I say. You can look at these numbers and say I'm stupid, I'll never learn, and you can give up. If you think that way I feel sad for you, because you're wrong. You're just wrong.

Or you can look at these numbers and say, that's not me. I'm learning in language that is not my first language and that is extremely hard, and I got off to a slow start. You can look at those numbers and say that's not the real story. Those numbers do not represent what I can do, they do not represent how strong I am, they do not represent my family. You can say, I will not be happy with this. You can say, I'm better than that, and I hope you say that, because you are. You light a fire in yourself and demand better of yourself, demand more from your school, demand more from me. You come in some days and I have to push you to work. Why? Why aren't you pushing me? Why aren't you telling me to teach you more, to teach you better? I don't know exactly how you got here, down so low. Maybe bad teachers, maybe bad schools, maybe you decided that you didn't mind being at the bottom. But no more. You do not have bad teachers, you do not go to a bad school, and you are too old to feel okay about failure. You can look at those numbers and say, no more. You can say, I refuse to let this go on.

You are not crabs in the bottom of a bucket, waiting to be boiled alive, I tell them, you are kanguros, and it's time to leap high. Now who's ready?

And I point to a kid and ask him if he's ready to leap, ready to go 3 in 1. He nods and I tell him to stand up on his desk. And I go to the next kid, finger in his face, and ask the same question. He says yes and I tell him to get on his desk. Then the next kid, and the next, finally saying, if you're ready, stand up! And they all get on their desks, looking at me.

Who will go 3 in 1? I ask. Who will do 3 years of work in 1? And from atop their desks they shout "I will" and I immediately get the chills like you wouldn't believe and hope like hell I can live up to the committment I just made to all of them.


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8:54 PM  
Blogger posthipchick said...

nice motivator. i can't get my student's test scores yet-- i've asked and no one has time to give them to me. awesome!

7:27 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

I think that's absurd that you can't get scores. The District has this kick-ass program called "cruncher" that has data going back three years, all kinds of charts, the break down of the CST score so you can really target instruction. Our staff requested "training" -- like, here's your log-in -- for one of our collaboration days. You guys need to get the data.

5:57 PM  

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