Friday, May 06, 2011

It's a Miracle!

I have a kid in my afternoon class who's been here three years and managed not to learn English. That in itself is remarkable. Teenagers are naturally social, and it takes real determination to shut out a culture that announces itself pretty much everywhere. Yet this kid never wanted to be here, and only mixes with others who speak his language.

As you might imagine, this has not resulted in what you'd call excellent grades. Yet a month ago, after many calls that went nowhere, the kid's dad showed up quite unexpectedly for parent-teacher conferences. Since then, the kid has not missed a single homework assignment. If I were Michelle Rhee, I suppose I'd loudly proclaim I'm the best teacher ever. Were I to take that approach, though, I'd have to ignore that his test grades are still abysmal, and when asked to complete tasks in class, the kid cannot do it. I said to him, "Boy, it's remarkable you can do this stuff at home but not in class."

What that really means is I know he's copying the homework. But really, should I acknowledge that? Wouldn't it be better to take the Rhee-form approach and take credit for this extraordinary improvement? After all, just a month ago this kid didn't have the motivation to copy the homework, and now he does so religiously. Should I give him extra credit for effort?

Sadly, no. Nor does it seem worth it to get in touch with Dad. Since this kid wasted seven months learning nothing, and an eighth month trying to trick me into thinking he's doing something, it's pretty much impossible he'll get to the point of passing in the next six weeks.

The best I can do is hope that next year Dad will be responsive in September rather than April. If that happens, the kid can really catch up. Despite what you see in Davis Guggenheim films, and despite how much I'd like to credit myself, there are no miracles.
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