Failing the Students We Pass
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?
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.