Failing the Students We Pass

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Tonight, I want to quit teaching… but I won’t.

I work really, really hard to create active, engaging lessons. I read over 150 pages of student writing a week. I give detailed feedback on style, tone, organization, and grammar. I also comment on what students say about themselves, their worlds, and their ideas.

I know my students. I LOVE my students.

I call and email parents, guardians, counselors, support staff, and administrators. I participate in conferences and professional development.

I work my butt off to TEACH students. I care about what they learn in my room. I care about the futures of the lives in front of me each day.

So, why do I feel like quitting?

I received an email today asking me to modify a curriculum for a child that has not come to class 66 times (of only 94 classes… we do block scheduling) and was late 11 of the times s/he made it class.

This might sound like a reasonable request to some. Except… it isn’t.

Throughout the year, I called home multiple times to request this child attend class. I contacted counselors and administrators asking for this child to receive some sort of support or outside assistance to encourage attendance.

I offered the student a credit recovery option after the first semester. The child did not participate.

I talked to the student about what was needed to earn credit. I offered credit recovery a second time at the end of the 3rd quarter. The option was neglected again.

I emailed counseling multiple times this spring to let them know this student was going to fail if no one could get him/her to attend. Still, no response.

Today, the last work day before final grades for the 2016-2017 school year are due for our seniors, at 3:45 p.m., I received an email saying the student has arrived and would like to do the work to pass the course. Could I please modify the curriculum?

WHAT?!?!?!

If I pass this student, I am failing him/her. I am lying to him/her about what it takes to be successful and what it takes to earn something.

I have already lied to so many students this year by leading them to believe that deadlines are inconsequential. I have perpetuated their beliefs that they can do whatever they want whenever they want and the same options will be waiting for them.

Why have I done this? I have done this because I want to give them every opportunity to succeed. I want to give them second chances…. and fifth chances. But… truthfully, I have done it because no one outside my classroom in the educational institution will allow me to hold my students accountable. Why won’t I give them a tenth chance? Don’t I care enough? We can’t have anyone fail. If a student doesn’t graduate his/her future is ruined. Forget that the same is true if we teach students that success doesn’t require action and effort.

I care too much about my students to keep lying. I care too much about who they become and the realities they face outside my classroom to give them cheap, false accolades.

So, I am the bad guy. I am the teacher who is too rigid. Forget that I love my students like I love my children. Forget that good parents and good teachers understand we must raise our youth with clear boundaries and clear consequences.

I care too much to fail a child by not failing him/her.

I’m tired of being asked to fail my students.

I am offended that anyone believes 66 days of 90 minute classes can be replaced by 20 hours in an online classroom. If that were true, why do I need a Master’s degree, 180 hours of professional development, and frequent in-depth teacher evaluations in order to be qualified to teach those 90 minute sessions?

It makes me want to quit, but I don’t want to quit teaching.

I don’t want to fail my students.

I don’t want this child to fail. I want this child to come and try again. I want this child to understand the value of hard work and how second chances really work.

I want to teach my students how to succeed after falling down.

So, I’m sorry if I am the bad guy. I love you too much to quit on you.

 

4 thoughts on “Failing the Students We Pass

  1. Ouch, this is a problem everywhere and it sounds like you have great documentation that you reached out dozens of times. You did not fail the child the system is. They will be surprised they have to show up to work to get paid. They will learn.

    Sorry the system failed you.

  2. Wow! So very proud of you! When I look at national and state budget proposals, I can only wonder what tomorrow holds. I know you are an awesome teacher with a heart of compassion for your students. This is a wonderful writing which anyone with kids or grand-kids in school should read! Love your last line as so many are leaving the teaching profession! Thank you for sharing your journey!

  3. When I was in school as a young boy, I was kept back three times. I was angry about this, but in reality, I was upset with myself. I quit school at 16 and, at 17 went into the Army, and it was not until I was 30 did I go off to college where I maintained a 3.4 GPA.

    One has to believe in themselves to succeed, and that education is important to continue. Today I hold a doctoral degree in Bible/Theology.

    Hard work got me to the place I wanted to be, and when I retired ten years ago, I went to China to teach English and some American history. The Chinese kids were polite and always respectful, and I never worried that a student who was angry over something would harm me.

    Just keep up the good work and the Lord will guide you as He has me.

  4. As long as you have a good reason for what you do, and it is in the students best interest, you will always be on the right side of the argument. It is hard to do what you think is right when the pressure is on to do what is easy.

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