Sunday, February 9, 2014

Challenging Students - Ideas appreciated

I have been working with a few specific students that are experiencing some different challenges, and I am struggling with the right way to help them. Would love any input or ideas from my great PLN.

Student 1 - This young man is a good student. He always gets his work done and always does his homework. However, he likes to work with a group of students that are some of the higher achievers in the class. The kids in this group are his friends, but he takes a little longer to process information that they do. As a result, he is trying to think through a question or a reading passage and the others in his group shout out the answer and then he just stops thinking and just writes down what they say.

I have spoken to this student one-on-one about this issue. He says he is just dumb (which he is not), and I tell him that he just takes a little longer to process, that doesn't mean he is dumb. I have moved him to other groups with similar, or even slightly lower ability in the hope that he will be forced to think for himself (and heaven forbid, maybe even be a leader instead of a follower). However, this doesn't seem to have had the outcome that I had hoped for.

In our last conversation on Friday, I was discussing his latest test. He had made notes at the top of the page about vocabulary (that were correct) but was unable to use the vocab in his writing (which was the assessment). This young man has said that he thinks he really has a learning disability or something....I am not an expert but I am 99% sure that is not the issue.

What do I do now? Apparently he has this slower processing issue in some of his other classes too. He is getting the material, so it isn't as though he isn't learning. Ideas? How else can I help this kiddo?

Student 2 - So, for as personable as Student 1 is, this young lady is not. Last semester she was getting by because she was working with another student and copying work, not doing her own work. As I look back through her work last semester, I would bet she was cheating on some of the written assessments. She struggled through speaking assessments, and bombed her final exam. She ended up with a low C last semester.

This semester, she and I began by having a chat. I explained to her that she had to do her own work to be successful. She was going to need to study and really practice in order to succeed. She got off to a pretty good start under my very watchful eye. She was doing her own work, and I was not letting her get away with the "I don't know anything" excuse. For the first written assessment, she stared at a blank quiz as I positioned myself near her corner of the room.....for a good 20 minutes. When I had to leave to answer a few other student questions, and to circulate, her test was miraculously complete. When I graded it, she had gotten a C, but I was suspicious.

A little over a week ago, she did a presentation with a partner which was given with a Power Point. She was only able to read the Power Point, and for the way she read it, it could have been in Italian or Greek. It was like she had never seen it before. Although her partner refused to throw her under the bus, I have seen enough of these presentations to know she had no part in writing it.

For the last assessment, I was keeping an eye on her. I had everyone move all of their belongings to the front of the room. I moved kids around to separate them.....and to make sure no one felt picked on, I moved A kids, F kids, etc. I kept my eye on this young lady, and she was doing some weird things with her hands, so at first I thought she had written on them. However, upon more careful looking, I noticed her phone (in the neon case) between her legs. So, when I took it from her I found she was using a translator app (don't get me started!) to translate a question on the quiz.

Now, I really hate when kids cheat. It makes me question myself, the test, the material I am teaching, everything. The only thing I hate more than that is a student that has no (and I mean ZERO) remorse when they are caught. After the test, I spoke to this young lady in the hall and she looked at me and said "Well I have never used my phone before to cheat in your class." Was that supposed to make me feel better?

I actually did something I have not done in a long time....I made her call her dad right there. Seriously she did not even look sorry or remorseful when she spoke to him. We had another conversation about how I would help her anytime, but she had to do her work and initiate the need and desire for extra help. She just continued to say how she hated Spanish and how she needed the class for college. Why don't students get that if they get poor (or failing) grades, it isn't really going to help them get into college?

I did follow up with her dad yesterday. He was upset (much more so than his daughter) and was surprised to hear how much help I had offered and that I had even let his daughter borrow my iPad during her Study Hall to try to help her take notes and get work done. Again, I am at a bit of a loss at what else I can do here. Can I do something to make her want help?

Final Notes
I almost always find a way to reach all of my kiddos and help them be successful, but these two are really a struggle for me this year. I know that they are both more than capable, they just have to get out of their own way........