Saturday, June 8, 2013

...But you can't make him swallow

Evan can't wait until next year, he tells me.
Next  year he can fail me.  If I can fail him then he can fail me.
"I don't fail you," I remind him, " you earn a passing grade, or you don't."

Evan didn't.  
He has this phone problem.  Everyone at school has a phone problem, including many teachers.  Its an addiction.  I worked with one teacher who spent her day on the cell phone updating her Facebook status.  I was the union representative then,  so when the very kind assistant principal handed me a printout of her status - updated hourly, including large chunks of time when she had teaching assignments, I went to speak with her.  I don't remember exactly what I said, but I remember the phrase "theft of services," coming up.  The conversation had two results.  One- I was immediately "defriended" and two- she ate all day long.  She was a size two, most of the students out weighed her by a factor of two.  But being detached from her phone meant she could only get through a day by using her fingers for feeding instead of texting. Its an addiction.

But I digress.   
Evan would love to eat all  day long. I probably wouldn't  even stop him (and he has a considerably larger frame to fill) but he doesn't even have the self restraint of my former coworker.  So many of our days go like this.

Me:  Evan put your cell phone away.
Evan:  I got you miss, (and then Evan does not put his phone away)
Me:  Evan put your cell phone away or I'm calling the dean
Evan:  How come you're always picking on me?

I could go on but the conversation doesn't change much.
And Evan doesn't have a  steep learning curve- not for math, not for cell phones.
When the dean gets called, he gets a five day suspension from school.  (In all fairness  to the school's disciplinary team, Evan is always given the choice of surrendering the phone for one WHOLE day, or being excluded from the daytime school- he could attend the late afternoon session, for 5 days.
Evan will never surrender his phone.

Several weeks ago Evan entered the room with the cell phone out.  (See above for ensuing conversation).   Evan then plugged the cell phone into the outlet. (Imagine the ensuing conversation).
Then the cell phone rang.  I told him if he picked it up I would call the dean and he would be suspended.

Suffice it to say I am a woman of my word.

The governor imposed a teacher evaluation of the New York City Department of Education last week.  Plenty of blogs have done a far better job than I would of illustrating the city teachers' reaction-  here  and here and here are just a few.

Among the many other intricate and confusing aspects is the piece the city requested about including student surveys in the evaluation.  Evan heard the news- and he's happy.  He's going to get his revenge he tells me as I hand out the final.

The surveys will count for five percent of the evaluation.  I have fifty students a semester.  I am generally popular.  I sing, I dance, I give you my cell number and I help you do your final.  So even if Evan gave me the very worst evaluation the most  it would count for is  2% of 5% that would account for .001 % of my evaluation.  And that would assume he wasn't suspended the day the surveys were distributed.  I want to explain  this to Evan, but that's what he wants- to distract me from giving the final. Anyway he wouldn't get the math.

"Do the final"  I tell him.  "I'll show you with what you missed.  You can find me later and I'll help you."

But he doesn't.  I tell the story to the principal.  I remind him of all the students who have "stalked" me over the years looking for that promised help. The ones who squeaked out an eleventh hour passing grade.

But not Evan.
The principal says, "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink."

Its more like: You can lead horse to water, pour it down its throat, but you can't make him swallow it.

Maybe I should text Evan the lessons to his cell phone.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Is that all we could do?

The subway series was in full swing this week.
The Knicks and the Rangers got themselves eliminated from the playoffs, so all that was left to talk about in 5th period math was baseball.

Terrel was recounting the unbelievable success of the Mets.  He gave the pitch by pitch recount  (and thanks to an inherited affinity for the Mets coupled with a disdain for the Yankees- I was able to ascertain the veracity of the report).

Terrel can't remember which line is the X axis and which is the Y, and counting up the boxes for a rise over run calculation of slope, is way out of his league, but even his least favored sport- baseball, was getting an accurate and complete review.

I asked, "Terrel, is there any sport you don't follow?"

"No Miss,"  Terrel answered with a shrug and head thrust.  Terrel has this tic that makes him the kind of person you worry about sitting next to on the bus and then hate yourself for being that way.

"I'm trying to figure out rugby." he added. "But, I haven't gotten all the rules down yet."

So I asked him if he saw the movie Invictus, about Nelson Mandela rallying a post -Apartheid South Africa around a predominantly white rugby team.  

He didn't.  He thinks he's heard of Nelson Mandela and South Africa.  Apparently social studies is no less of a struggle than math.

I'm glad he's happy and talking this week.  Last week the current event horror story of the week had a direct impact on him.  A fourteen year old girl was shot to death on a public bus on the way home from a sweet sixteen party.  Perhaps the bullet was meant for the girl next to her, perhaps it was random. I don't watch carefully, the "if it bleeds it leads." stories on the local news.

But Terrel was devastated.  "She was like a little sister, to me Miss," he told me."I was going to take her for a tattoo and now I'm going to the funeral." 

I told  the principal the story, and we looked at Terrel's academic records.  Terrel has passed everything and has lots of a academic credits. But with the exception of the math Regents his highest Regent grade is 12.  Way below the chance level.  

How could that be?
I cannot speak for anyone but myself.  
I will give Terrel a passing grade.  He comes everyday, willingly gives a complete and thorough sports cast and then makes an attempt to do the math. 

I cannot, in all good faith say he earned a high school credit worth of math, but I cannot live with the thought of not giving him a credit for doing what he could and never not showing up for another day of trying to do it all again the next day.  (And an audience for the sport's news of the day)

The principal shook his head as he read the record.  "If this is all we could do for Terrel, was this the right place for him?" he asked.

The principal and I came to the school late in Terrel's high school career, but I don't think we could have done any different.  The current climate of No Child Left Behind and the other nonsense means Terrel has no choice but to take a series of college prep classes that he passes but does not understand.  Then the gate of standardized testing slams shut in front of him, not allowing him to graduate with a "real" diploma.

The city promises it is opening more career and technical high schools next year, too late for Terrel, but who knows if others like him will get a better chance of course work that might make there life easier. 

I will make sure Terrel registers with the office for vocational training.  
Then when he leaves  I will wish him well. 
And hope that he will have a place in his future to be safe and happy and audience willing to listening to the recount of latest game.