Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Feel free to hate me. I am about to say something that sounds really bad. Just keep reading and don't misquote me on anything.

These children are not smart.

Okay, no, not every single one. A couple are. But too many aren't!

I have a really hard time figuring out and then accepting the level these kids are on. This year my "high-level" class is about on grade level. Their homework and quiz scores and class performance show that. The other two classes do significantly worse and are significantly slower. They have trouble with the fifth-grade vocabulary and so must be operating on roughly a fourth-grade level--in sixth grade. The class, as a whole, not a select few.

Some things I make myself remember that it's not their fault. Things like grammar and spelling have been shunned in school during their lifetime. (The people who made that decision really ARE stupid. I hope they're happy when we have a nation of adults who can't read, write or spell effectively or efficiently. Grr. Get off my porch, you young whippersnappers with your rock and roll!) So the fact that they have no foundation and basic knowledge in these areas is not their fault. It's the system which has failed them (on purpose, but whatever, I suppose one could argue that's a matter of opinion).

And I'm not talking about the ones who have real issues, or even the ones that are behind. Even the low level ones are paying close attention and really trying to do well. That's something else. I'm talking about the kids who have no sense and who just don't pay attention.

Anyway, so when they are trying to learn these new things, and I do my best to connect it to things they already know, and show them step by step, and they just do stupid things.

That fantastic worksheet with irregular verb families--that was my tool today to learn the patterns for present-past-participle forms. For each first one, I had the kids supply the form and the pattern. See? Words they already knew, and patterns that were easy and made sense. Participation, ownership, confidence, etc.

Then they were to fill in the chart with the rest of the verbs in that same pattern. Most very good! Lots of praise to the kiddies.

For the pattern like "awake-awoke-awoken" I saw answers that sounded German and Dutch.


(that I will very grudgingly forgive--for now!--because many of them are so low level they don't know about doubling consonants. Yet. But they better start fixing it and paying some freaking attention to their spelling.)


(Um, no. Just, no. What is the correct word? You know this already, I promise!)

and the best (except worst) that was ALL TOO COMMON?!


What the f*ck?!

For pete's sake, look at your paper! Read the word! PAY ATTENTION!!

Every single child in the room has been in a grocery store. Grocery stores have food in a freezer. IT IS NOT A FROOZEN FOOD SECTION!!

When I burst out with this particular sentence during my last class, they all got the giggles. Hee hee! Froozen food! Tee hee!

Me, in my head, rolling my eyes: What in the world am I dealing with here?

I don't think there is enough patience in the world for this. Instead, I think I have to make myself just forget and ignore things, and try to move on.

And FINE, none of them are actually stupid or dumb. Gah, I know I can't say that and that I'm going to hell for even thinking it. I don't really believe they're idiots. Senseless goofs, some of them, yes. LOTS of them are really low level and that makes me very nervous, because I really don't know if anything I do helps.

This year I think I'm getting better at finding those lower-level ones and targeting them for improvement. Right now that only entails a couple extra worksheets to reinforce things, and repeated desk visits during work periods to check on and review basics. Actually, I think I am seeing some improvement from at least a couple of them. I just worry because there's so much they don't know. I need to keep taking one step at a time and keeping an eye on their work.

Another thing I want to try is Experts. I noticed in the homework I graded this weekend that literally only a handful of kids really grasped and mastered the verb tense and usage. So besides full-class reinforcement, I was thinking about moving the Master Verb kids around the tables to help the others. Doesn't that sound fun?

Along with that, I think I'm going to have to go back to once-weekly skill grouping. Gah, too much to think about when we don't have a copier at our disposal. (I heard that a new one is coming soon. I just hope it happens. And I don't see why the old one can't get moved so we can have TWO working copiers. Gosh, what a concept!)

Moral of this post:
  • NO, I'm not a bitter commie monster (ooh, great name for a blog!) who hates children or calls names;
  • YES, I'm a human being who gets frustrated;
  • ALSO YES, I'm a teacher who CARES about what the students are learning and who wants them to actually LEARN something, which requires them to pay attention, and me to work hard to monitor their progress.


Anonymous said...

I'm also someone who cares deeply about children learning and being confident and articulate and comfortable with learning.

And most of them can succeed with good teachers.

But it's okay to admit that some of them really are dumb. I mean, we can't all be smart.

Miss Browneyedgirlie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Miss Browneyedgirlie said...

I have a friend (and fellow teacher-to-be) who would often call students dumb.

And it got under my skin terribly.

Nobody is dumb - there are just so many learning styles that we, as teachers, can tailor lessons to. It's exhausting to think about.

Also, thank you for the glimpse of things to come in my teaching career. Though, in 8 days, I've already seen quite a bit. I've already found my troublemaker - I'll be the queen of classroom management when I'm done with him!

Lady S said...

I tell all my kids (a small group of second graders on grade level) in my Literacy Block that they are smart. If they weren't smart I wouldn't be pushing them the way I am.

Of course, they can't spell, they don't know rhyming, and they don't read directions. But I still love them.

Jonathan said...

So they hear the mistake, and know it is a mistake, but they write them out incorrectly? Would it help if they put the verbs in context before filling in the blanks? (or are they already doing that?)


Anonymous said...

I came across your blog whilst looking for worksheets for my Spanish classes. It was really gratifying to read your post. I have so often felt the same way!!!! :) Our school system has become increasingly frustrating. I think so much hand-holding is going on that students of all ages don't expect to do any work and therefore fall so short of the mark...which makes us teachers look bad. So, then we get pressure from the administration, government, etc. to "teach better" and when we try to crack down on the laziness drowning our youth, it only leads to classroom management issues and awful critiques from the administrator. As I teach middle school/high school, I'm unsure if my advice will be helpful or not. But, here goes: I am changing the worlds of my students. From the very first day, I let them know this will be hard. I will not just pass you. I WILL call parents. You do the work, you get a good grade. You dink around, you fail. I also talk to parents during Back-to-School Night and conferences to let them know my approach to the class. I tell them my philosophy and how successful past students have been - they take responsibility for their own learning, grade, and being. I just need support of the parents and I also pledge to them that I will let them know the progress of their kid continuously. *shrug* Obviously you can't be super strict in elementary, but perhaps some of it can be adapted. I might sound like a Nazi, but actually my kids love me. Once they figure out they can't get away with anything in my class, their respect deepens and we have a great time in class.

~A fellow frustrated teacher