Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Another Student Story.........

I know teachers aren't supposed to have favorites (neither are mothers, but we know how THAT works), but the truth of the matter is that we do. My favorite students aren't necessarily the sweetest or most well-behaved, and oftentimes they're not even the smartest. Some only become my favorites after they are gone (or I am), and they continue to stay in touch.

Or they STOP staying in touch, and I'm looking at YOU, Amanda Sue! Where have you been?


One of my favorites is a young man who was one of the first students in our program.

Doug was one of those kids who are just too smart for school. He came to us with a few failures on his transcript, like many of our students, but his weren't due to absenteeism or lack of comprehension. Some of his F's were due to good old-fashioned stubbornness. Some of it was his; some of it was his teachers'.

For example, Doug failed U.S. History. He got the highest grade in his class - maybe EVER - on the state-mandated End-of-Course-Test. He made a 98. Clearly he learned something, or he knew it already before he ever took the class. But he didn't do a project his teacher assigned, so she entered a grade of 69 for him. A 98 on the EOCT; 69 in the class.

I think this is another clear example of teachers grading based on what students DO, not what they KNOW. Personally, in all my years of teaching, I have never awarded any student a grade that ended in a 9. Even when I first started teaching and didn't know much of anything ELSE, I knew that I was human, and if I had erred in calculations, percentages, or even the dumb assignments I gave throughout a grading period, I was going to err on the side of the student. Anything above an 88.5 became an "A." That's just the way I've always rolled. I don't condemn teachers who assign 89 when a student doesn't consistently do work worthy of an "A"; I just don't do it personally.

Correction - I may have, on occasion, awarded a student a 19 instead of a 20. Because at that point, is there really any difference at all?

Doug was - is - one of those people, much like many members of my own family that may or may not include the author of this blog, who sometimes don't know where the line is between "smart" and "smart-ass." I can see him butting heads with this particular teacher (she's rather old-fashioned), and I can see her being determined to show him who was boss. I've done that a few times myself, but I'm usually clever enough to do it in a way that gives me some sense of satisfaction yet doesn't have that kind of consequence. It's why we went to college.

Still, Doug had a hard time at our school. He was (is) slightly lazy, and he was used to taking all the short-cuts he could. He was (is) also quite the charmer, and I'm sure he talked his way out of doing many a staid old assignment. At our computer-based school, though, he wasn't able to do that. But he couldn't always motivate himself to jump through the hoops, and at the end of his first semester with us, he was in danger of being dismissed from the program.

It was one of the few times I've seen Doug serious, that meeting where he begged us (with real live tears in his eyes, or he's an even better actor than I thought) to give him another chance. We did allow him to stay, but we decided he needed to be away from as many distractions as possible. Back then we actually had planning periods (those were the days), so Doug had to do his work in the classroom of whoever had planning that period. Sometimes that meant he just wanted to chat with US, and it was hard to be harsh and tell him to do his work. I would find excuses to leave the room just so he couldn't talk to me.

One day I left to go make a phone call, and I left the radio playing. It was on a station that was new to our area at the time and played classics from the 60's and 70's. When I came back in the room, Elton John was singing, and I burst into hysterical laughter. Doug got it too, and we laughed until we nearly cried. I had just come back into the room, remember, and the song that was playing was "The Bitch is Back." I couldn't help it.

Another day I came back into the room and caught Doug on his cell phone, a definite no-no in our school. I started scolding him, and he handed me the phone saying, "Here, it's your daughter."

He wasn't on his cell phone. He was on MINE. My cell phone rang, and he answered it and struck up a conversation with Sweet Girl. That's just Doug. I couldn't even be mad.

Doug is in his final semester in college now. He's majoring in some combination of words that I can never string together correctly, but it has to do with environmental policy and some other stuff. He has a beard and twin earrings and he still has a wicked sense of humor. We keep telling him he ought to go into politics, because the boy can B.S. with the BEST of them, but he says he's not interested.

I have mixed feelings about that teacher who gave Doug the 69 in U.S. History. I am still bitter about her wielding his grade as the ultimate teacher weapon. But I'm sure glad she sent him to us.


DJan said...

Wow. Doug sounds like he was a really interesting person, student or not. Glad to hear he's into environmental issues, it should be good for the whole bunch of us, don't you think?

AmandaSue : ] said...

I have a job now!
I'm a caregiver to a young lady who suffered brain injuries when she was seven.
It takes up my whole day now.
I love it though!

Don't worry, I still make time to read your posts!