Thursday, July 19, 2007

Are You the Bad Guy?

A recurring issue in my classroom has been standards, and why must I use them. This has proven inconvenient for not only certain students, but certain members of the administration as well. For example, though I'm certified to teach Spanish, I've only done so once. My AP determined that the Spanish teacher was throwing too many kids out of the period one Spanish class, and turned it over to me. I never threw anyone out.

Still, half the class didn't show up, and half who did failed to do any work. Consequently, only 25% of the kids passed, and I was never asked to teach Spanish again (which was fine with me, actually). It turned out the teacher who'd thrown too many kids out was passing almost everyone, and was therefore better suited for the job after all.

Closer to what I'm actually hired to do, I often teach beginning ESL. I really like the challenge of pulling language out of the reluctant throats of newcomers, and I will do or say virtually anything to do so. In my school, kids get three periods of instruction at this level--two with me, covering grammar and speaking, and one with Ms. Laconic, covering reading and writing. Last year, these classes began as level two in the fall, and became level three in the spring. For some reason, though, they were promoted or retained based solely on Ms. Laconic's grades.

In Maria's class of 34 kids, I passed 68% of the students. In my morning class of 14, I passed everyone except two kids who showed up in April and were hopelessly behind (I gave them grades of "NC", so they didn't count as failures. This may not have been necessary if the sole level two class had not already contained 36 kids).

I asked Ms. Laconic how Maria, a student who never cracked the 25% barrier on any of my tests, who regularly spoke Spanish in my class (a no-no, along with every language that isn't English), who never did homework (copying doesn't count), who was "absent" over thirty times in my class (and over 40 in Ms. Laconic's) managed to pass. "She drew a really beautiful picture," Ms. Laconic informed me.

I took Maria to my office (outside the trailer door) and asked her how she passed Ms. Laconic's class. "In her class you can copy," she told me.

Well, that explains it, I guess. I can only hope Maria isn't unfortunate enough to get a bad guy teacher like me again.

Thanks to Schoolgal
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