Home > Uncategorized > When Teaching Hits Close to Home

When Teaching Hits Close to Home

This has been one of the most difficult years I have spent in education. I have considered leaving the classroom more than once. I should have known this semester would be difficult when the guidance department informed me that several of my students were hand selected for my class.

One of the problems with being a proponent of Standards Based Grading in a school that does not unilaterally embrace it is that you provide multiple opportunities for students who struggle. Students who have never experienced success in the classroom show great gains when the philosophy of mastery learning and multiple attempts at mastery permeate the classroom. What’s the problem with that? You get more at risk students than you can possibly handle. You get more special cases and more troubled students than you can possibly handle. Word gets out when kids and their successes are the driving force in your classroom. Be warned.

I became jaded and slightly cynical and a little burned out. I felt like a failure that I could not reach each one of these students who had become jaded with public education. To add insult to injury, I was awarded Southeast Tennessee Teacher of the Year this semester. I felt unworthy of this honor.

It is amazing how God can humble you and rekindle your passion and calling for students. It is heart wrenching how He chooses to do it. My own son started experiencing neurological issues last summer. It was obvious to all; and students started making comments to him at school. Sixth grade is difficult enough without adding obvious facial tics to the list of awkward middle school attributes. My son is on medication and the tics are gone,but one of the side effects is the inability to retain information and difficulty processing information. He describes it as working through a fog. My once honors student who scored advanced on standardized tests is struggling to remember to write his name on papers. He forgets to turn in assignments. He still rocks a standardized test and is currently earning A’s and B’s on most tests, but he is struggling with the day to day workings of school.

After a tremendous grade drop this nine weeks, he begged me to take him off his medication. He told me he would rather face the teasing of kids over his tics than to disappoint me or his father with these poor grades. I told him I would talk to his teachers about accommodations, and his response was that he didn’t want his medication to be an excuse. I’m so proud of this young man. We go back to his doctor and my hope is that we can find a new medication or adjust the dosage. In the mean time, my son and I have been blessed with some amazing teachers in his classrooms. They were all quick to work with us on this issue. My son is not lazy and I believe they would attest to the fact that this is not typical behavior for him.

As an educator, it was difficult for me to ask for any special consideration for my son. I was reminded that there are several students out there just like my son. Most of those students do not have a teacher for a mom. Several of them do not have advocates in the house. A few of them do not have encouragers in the house. I teach for them. I teach for the student who has never experienced success. I teach for the child who used to be successful, but for different reasons, can’t seem to achieve. I teach for my son.

So, please give me the at risk kids. I want the students who struggle and hate math. I want the young man who doesn’t understand why he needs Algebra 2 to graduate. I want the young lady whose home life doesn’t foster learning. I know it will be difficult and I know I won’t always be successful, but I can plant a seed. I write this for myself so I can remember. The next time I’m frustrated that a student turns something in late, forgets to put their name on a paper, or needs to retest another assessment, I will remember my son and the grace his teachers showed him. He is not another at risk kid. He is my son.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Renee Scott
    March 22, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    This was so touching. I just love reading your blog and the sharing your Math Resources. You not only help students in your classes, you impact educators..

  2. March 22, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    This is so touching! You are a great teacher; you welcome challenge and embrace all children. Students know when we care and when we are sincere. Teachers with your spirit make learning enjoyable! P.S. We all need a reminder every now and then!

    • March 30, 2013 at 9:15 pm

      Thanks so much. It’s easy to lose sight in the classroom everyday as to why we are there.

  3. March 22, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    Thanks for this blog post–and you have an awesome son! I totally agree with him, that I’d rather take the social remarks than struggle with school, but that’s not my place to put that on him–how wonderful that he made that decision!

    It always helps to remember that students come to class with baggage, and so many of my students have experienced things that I haven’t when it comes to tough home lives. Thank you for this reminder, praise be to God for the timely reminders he gives us.

    • March 30, 2013 at 9:17 pm

      Thanks for the kind words about my son! We did let him decide. I know with all the support he has that this will only make him stronger. It’s easy to put blinders on in the classroom and only see the child infront of us and not what they have to carry. I need reminding all the time.

  4. April 1, 2013 at 4:05 am

    Thank you, Amber. How blessed you are to have your son.

  5. star1237
    April 3, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    This is an extremely inspiring read. I am completely astonished at how driven and passionate you are about working with such students. You are an amazing teacher and an amazing role model to every student who enters your class room, including myself. I could only ever hope to have even a fraction of the amazing talent that you have with how you impact these students every day. As far as your son, after getting to know both of them, I know your sons are very bright and very mature for both their ages. The most amazing thing to me is that, even just at the 6th grade level, he obviously really does care about his education and wants to get everything out of it that he can. That speaks a LOT about him AND about how you’ve raised him. I have no doubts that the both of them will be extremely successful and driven, just like their mother! I wish you and your family the best in all of your endeavors!

    • star1237
      April 3, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      – Grant (whoops)

      • April 4, 2013 at 1:47 am

        I knew it was you, Grant. No one else cares for my boys like you do. Thank you for your kind words. It is amazing how my own children challenge me to be a better teacher. Both boys are definitly driven. Sometimes I think it is a curse they inherited from me. Hopefully they can learn to balance that with enjoying life. You always seem to handle the stress with grace, unlike me 🙂 We need to catch up soon. Thank you for reading and supporting my blog.
        Amber

  6. Betsy Gilbert
    April 9, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Awesome read and I totally get what you are saying! My sister was told when her daughter was a third grader that my niece would never graduate high school much less attend college. Today she is a college graduate who teaches ESL to adults and pre-school spanish. It took her 6 years to finish and she had to “fail” a few college classes before she suceeded. My sister was her advocate and let her know that she would graduate and that she would get a college degree. This was not an easy task. It would take her three times as much time to complete an assigment than the average student but she put in the time. There is my problem, at what point does it become the responsibility of the student and not just the responsibility of the teacher? In the real world, life is hard and our boss doesn’t give us an unlimited amount of time to “learn” our craft or “do” our project. Aren’t we just encouraging laziness? When I was in school, if I didn’t do my assignment I got a zero. I learned there were consequences to my actions. I believe in mercy and I believe in everything your post says, however, I will always believe that without failure there will never be success. I don’t believe in taking failure out of the classroom, because in life, failure is always an option.

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