Today was the last day of Summer Geometry. All of my students that were taking the class to replace a grade improved their previous grades by at least a letter (most did 2 or 3 letters). All but one student who were taking it for the first time got an A or a B and were pleased with that grade.
I did have one student who told me after the first day that he would fail. I tried to motivate him in class, tried talking to his mom to see what could help, and tried getting him to work with me one-on-one before or after school. Nothing worked. In class he would try to turn in tests after 10 minutes with most questions blank. I wouldn’t accept tests early that had blanks so sometimes he would just stare at his test for an hour. Sometimes he would write responses such as “cheeseburger/hamburger” or “x = 5 billion” on every question right away and try to turn it in. The crazy thing was, he was an out-of-district student and was taking this class because he had moved and the school he moved from didn’t teach geometry until junior year, but the school he moved to taught it sophomore year so he wasn’t going to be in class with his peers and apparently he had begged his mom to pay the extra money to take this class. I guess that’s what the Common Core is trying to prevent, right? I will admit, summer school math is not for everyone – it is a class where you have to learn quickly and/or be able to put in much more than the minimum effort outside of class to be successful. He told me he knew he could not understand the material and retain it quick enough after he saw what we did on the first day, and he was not prepared to work so much outside of class for one class. First semester, he earned a D- after I convinced his mom to bring him to school an hour early for the two days before the final exam so that he could retake tests. Second semester had many projects and, even though most students finished them in class, he refused to work. He told me he wished his mom would let him drop the class so that he could get a job and pay her back. It was second semester that he started doing anything he could to get out of class…started being disruptive to other students during work time, during a test he pulled out a newspaper and started reading it, blatantly held out his phone playing a game with the sound on while we were taking notes. Eventually, he figured out that attendance could get him kicked out of school, so, even when his mom dropped him off every day about 20 minutes before school started, he started walking into the classroom very late. On the day he was kicked out of class, he walked into my room 45 minutes late. He had a 12% in the class.
At first, I was beating myself up about how I could get this kid motivated to just try during class. I believed he could earn at least a C if he really tried in class and on the tests. Eventually, I started to feel bad for him – he understood that it was time to quit and move on, but his mom wouldn’t let him. I know it’s frowned upon to be a quitter, but sometimes it’s in your best interest (see Freakanomics Podcast Episode “The Upside of Quitting”). He could have even taken the class as an audit, but his mom wouldn’t let him. She wanted him to see the consequences of his actions. I asked my parents what they would have done if my brother or I did something like this in a summer school class. They said they couldn’t even think about it because they knew it would never happen like that – if either of us were struggling we would have done all that we could to pass. My parents couldn’t really imagine being in that situation with us. Near the end, I started to get angry at my student. He knew how to act respectful to his classmates and to me, but he was purposely acting out so that he could get out. I had so much stress from this one student for most of the six weeks, but when he eventually got kicked out I went back to feeling bad about the situation. I don’t know if there was anything more I could have done.
I liked blogging about what was going on in my summer school class. I think it helped me to have a place to reflect or even quickly jot down any interesting thing that I did. I don’t think I can do the 180 thing during the regular school year, though. I’ll have four new classes to plan for and will most likely just be trying to survive. I do hope to keep up with the blog, though. I might set a day or two each week where I make sure I blog. We’ll see.
C’est fini! C’est l’été!