Friday, March 15, 2019

You Can't Stay Mad At Me

That's my dog Toby in the picture. Sometimes he frustrates me. I want to let him loose in the park to play with his friends, but he'll stick his nose in the grass and eat something gross. I chase him all over, but he's a lot faster than I am. I can't catch him until and unless he wants to be caught. Then he looks at me, with those eyes, and they say, "You can't stay mad at me." He's right.

A student said exactly those words to me the other day. It wasn't her fault. It was mine. She comes in late a lot. I want to say something harsh to her but she looks at me and I can't. She hasn't got a bad intention in her entire body. So I told her, "I can't stay mad at you." This puts me at an extreme disadvantage in my mad plot to manipulate her into showing up on time. Now, every time I begin to open my mouth, she says, "You can't stay mad at me." And she knows she's right.

So now it's the end of the first semester and she needs a grade. Her average is not so good, particularly since she screwed up on an in-class writing project by not showing up and never finishing it. I will probably give her 60 instead of 65. I'm hoping that, rather that having me get mad, she will get mad enough to pass the class and teach me a valuable lesson. It's a tossup, really.

She says it's not her fault that she's late. She says her mom drives her to school and sleeps until the last possible moment. My student says she gets up on time but has to wait for mom to drive. What's really bad here is I tend to believe her. I call her mom periodically and she shows up on time for a few days. Then things happen, and she's late.

It's not working out well for this student. This semester I've moved a little away from testing toward in-class projects. The real problem with in-class projects is you can't do them if you're not in class. Now I could have students write at home, which would make sense in a lot of ways. Why should students have to sit and write in the classroom when they could just do it at home?

Here's why--my students tend to get help when they write at home. Sometimes they use Google Translate. That's a big mistake, as the translations are invariably awful. I've realized, though, with me walking around and helping people, I've let at least one student bring in a Google Translate document and have me correct it. A more common issue is getting people who speak English to help. When that happens, I have no idea whose writing I'm actually reading. How can I help you write when what I'm reading was written by your girlfriend?

I've seen worse with kids who have paid tutors. Sometimes these paid tutors just do my students' homework for them. This might help them out on projects, but if I give a test these kids are dead in the water. I can understand people wanting to tutor for money. I can't understand how on earth tutors who do homework for kids think they're helping. I've often told parents to fire tutors.

The very worst thing I've seen has been with students who go to after-school academies. I once had a girl who was failing my class, doing little or nothing, and I knew she could do better. She said she didn't have time to do homework because she had to go to the hogwon. That's the Korean word for academy, I guess. I told her I'd call her parents and tell them to stop making her go there. No, she said, she loved it. Evidently it had become her social life somehow. I don't remember whether I called her parents, but I recall feeling very sorry they were paying all that money for nothing.

I can't stay mad at my student. But I can't pass her either, until and unless she starts showing up on time, and a little more frequently. Hopefully we'll find a way to fix this. At least it will be easier than teaching Toby not to eat gross stuff when he's loose in the park.
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