Friday, June 22, 2007

The statistics that shape my work day

My regards to Alice Cooper: Schoooooool's out! For! Summer! That's right, today was the last day of my school year, and I spent it speeding down some water slides while chaperoning the 6th/7th grade trip. We went to a local water park, and after the students were let loose, there was little for my fellow teachers and me to do but join in and get wet.

It is probably still too early to look back and fully digest this school year just ended, but I do know that I experienced some big problems. For the first time in my teaching career, I had a class that was incorrigible, and I use that word in the strongest sense. Right up to the very end, I was forced to remove certain students from the classroom, and right up to the very end, I had days where I was never able to begin the lesson, because a good number of the students refused to cooperate. Whether the consequences were negative or positive, nothing that I tried worked; and believe me, I tried everything and then some. I was just simply overwhelmed by too many misbehaving students. This fact really hit home when I finalized grades the day before yesterday. In addition to their letter grade, I am supposed to give each student a citizenship grade as well. The choices are:

O = Outstanding
G = Good
S = Satisfactory
N = Needs Improvement
I = Improving
U = Unsatisfactory

Prior to this year, the very worst class I ever taught had three students with a U, and believe me, those three students raised hell. But three is manageable. I now have a new record. This third period class that caused me so much grief this year had a total of eight - count 'em - eight students with a U for a citizenship grade. Additionally, I had another four students with an N. When it comes to a situation like that, as a teacher, where does one begin regarding how to get a class under control? As any teacher can tell you, classroom behavior often predicts academic performance, and this class was a textbook example. I had two students who earned an A. I bet you're probably wondering how many F's were earned. Out of a class of 31 students, 17 of them received an F, including every one of the students who got a U for a citizenship grade. And these F's were not the just-missed-the-cutoff-58% variety. I am talking hardcore F's in the 10%-40% range. I have always been of the belief that one has to work very hard to earn an F that low. Seriously. Grades like that are earned by failing to turn in assignment after assignment after assignment. The funny part is when you call the student up to show him his final grade for the trimester, and with a shocked and indignant tone, he says, "Why do I have an F?" I got a lot of that over the last couple of days, and all I had to do was point my index finger at the succession of zeros that permeated the students' grade report.

So those are some of my classroom statistics that I have been enduring over the last few days. Let's look at some other statistics that make a significant impact. Looking at the students who caused such a ruckus in my class, I couldn't help but notice that almost all of them came from a single-mother household, or from a divorced household where the student lived with the mother. I think only one of my incorrigible students lived with both parents.

National statistics show that this is not an unusual situation. I receive a thrice-weekly email newsletter from the Federalist society. In one of their issues that came out around Father's Day, they had these percentages to share:
Here are some sobering statistics: According to the Center for Disease Control, Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services and the Bureau of the Census, the 30 percent of children who live apart from their fathers will account for 63 percent of teen suicides, 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions, 71 percent of high-school dropouts, 75 percent of children in chemical-abuse centers, 80 percent of rapists, 85 percent of youths in prison, 85 percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders, and 90 percent of homeless and runaway children. In fact, children born to unwed mothers are ten times more likely to live in poverty as children with fathers in the home.
All I have to do is think of that student whom I mentioned in a recent post, whose gold tooth-wearing mother told me that she didn't have time to return my phone calls about her son's gross misbehavior in my classroom because she is a single mother with nine kids. According to the above stats and the evident behavior that this student is already exhibiting, and I would suffice it to say that the future looks very bleak for that young man, and the rest of the aforementioned students in that class.

The fun part is that since these students are seventh graders, chances are good that I will have some of them in my class next year. All I ask is that next time, please don't put them all together in the same period. Please?

Good Day to You, Sir


Texas Truth said...

Have a good summer break. Do something that makes you and yours feel good.

I just got some interesting enws this morning. My principal has taken a job in high level administration (not campus level). In the first 29 years the school had two principals. Since them, we have had had seven. SEVEN principals in 12 years!!!

Oh well, I expect to see another "young wonder" show up, start some programs and then move on to bigger and better things.

Education is not about teaching anymore, at least not from the administration's standpoint.

The Vegas Art Guy said...

If you get them in the same period you can simply start by sending them to the dean and then get on with the rest of the lesson...