Sunday, January 18, 2009

Frequent Collaborative Communication

S is in Class B, a class I haven't told y'all about yet. Weirdly in this day and age, my classes are somewhat "tracked" at the Morton School. Last year's Class A, for example, saw almost half of its students offered slots at a specialized high school. Class B, well...let's just politely say, "Not so much." This year's Class B is a little better in all respects: better-behaved, more hard-working, and probably more potential, in my extremely humble opinion. But I have a few extremely problematic students in Class B this year, and S is one of them.

Honestly, S is a nice kid. He has more challenges than any kid his age ought to have. He's being raised by a relative who is not a parent, this after he was given up by his biological parents to begin with. He's dealing with mental illness and learning disabilities at the same time. I try to be extra-patient with S because I imagine that just coming to school every day is tough for him. But my well of patience with S ran so low this week that I'm not even sure that a three-day weekend will restore it.

Both classes had a project due over the holiday break. We started the project together in class around the second week of December. They did peer review, handed in a rough draft to me which I commented on and returned to them, and were able to e-mail me over the break if they had any extra questions. This seemed like an appropriate amount of "scaffolding," if you will, so that the students could be successful. S was one of a handful of students who did not hand in the project, even after the grace period of three days (with points taken off) that allow for late projects.

I gathered these students together and reminded them that this was a major grade for this marking period. I informed them that, in light of this, I would offer them another chance to submit the project. Most of them did, but S did not.

Obviously the next step was to contact S's guardian. I had a lengthy conversation with this individual. The guardian asked if I might be able to offer S some extra credit, which I declined to do; I do not offer extra credit, generally, and when I do, I offer it to everyone in the class. But I did say I would accept the project the following day should S's guardian care to have a serious discussion with S about the situation. This individual promised that that would be done.

Next day: S did not submit the project. I began to prepare some documentation of S's situation to send home.

Day after that: Class B was taking their biweekly vocabulary quiz. As I walked around the room, I noticed that S appeared to be working at the same pace as the student seated across from him. Although S had not done his vocabulary homework, he had the first five questions correct. He also made the same spelling mistake as the student seated across from him. He answered the sixth question just after the student across from him did after a period of struggling. At that point, I reseated S, quietly and privately, to conclude the quiz. When I collected the papers, S had answered thirteen of the last fifteen questions wrong.

So I called S's home again. I had another conversation with S's guardian. I informed this person that I would no longer accept the project. I related the incident about the vocabulary quiz. I wasn't sure what else to say. I was so disappointed that S would have cheated. I sent home a letter along with another copy of S's progress report (he "lost" the first one) and a packet of work he could do over the weekend to practice for the ELA.

I'm at my wit's end with this child, so much so that I don't even know how to end this post. So I'll just stop here and say that I'm...discouraged.