Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Don't Beat Yourself Up

Here's the thing: it's 31 degrees outside and snowing non-stop. If today were a Friday, I would expect no more than a 30% attendance rate. The only thing is, today is not a Friday, it's Wednesday during New York State Regents Examinations Week (I previously wrote about these exams here).
"Don't beat yourself up."
That's what I'm secretly telling myself right now.

Today, all NYC algebra students take the Regents Examination at 1:15 PM. They have opportunities to take this exam in January, June and August. The exam is thirty-nine questions long and covers approximately a year and a half's worth of material. It's actually not that difficult - especially since you really only need to answer thirteen questions correctly to score a passing score of 65%. You don't need to be a math teacher to figure out that's one hell of a curve! And yes, that's what she said.

I sent about sixteen text messages this morning to students reminding them today is the day of their algebra regents and that they should be here, on time. That was also my facebook status yesterday. Our school also has this automated machine that calls students' houses to send reminders.

I feel like we're parents trying to tell our spoiled children to eat their vegetables. But usually in those cases, the children are not 17 or older. Ours are. Most of the effort here is pretty one-sided. And on days like this, I'm usually tempted to say:
"Fuck it, they should know how important this is for them. If they don't come, sucks for them. We can't fight their battles for them."
Honestly, I usually catch myself saying that a lot in my head. Especially today. At the same time, I don't know: the problem is our students really don't know how important this is for them. The idea that an education is the one thing that can't be taken away from you and can only give you a better life wasn't exactly instilled everyday in their heads. Generalization? Maybe. But I'd like to be proven wrong. The longer I work as a teacher, the more hostility I feel towards parents who have no idea what the fuck they're doing.

If I ever stood up in front of a classroom in Pakistan and told students there that in America I used to call my students' homes to remind them of an exam, they'd probably say:
"How could someone forget when their examinations are? Haha! Good joke. But seriously, can we start the lesson?"
And they'd secretly be thinking, if this teacher sucks, I'm going to need to find a private tutor.


Anonymous said...

Preach! After almost 15 years of teaching, I share your hostility towards negligent parents. I can't believe any students would be absent for a Regents unless there is a serious illness or family emergency. How dare they!

Yo Mista said...

@ Anonymous:
Yeah, seriously! And after tonight's 7 inch snow storm, I'm really curious to see how many turn up for tomorrow.

Alpha Za said...

damn, that is kinda stupid. That said, maybe students who dont even try don't deserve to pass. You can't yell at them to be on time to work can you or give their future exams can you?

I guess my point is to let the kids that don't want to study and take their exams be. They should be taking those exams for themselves, not for you.

Yeah, thats exactly what a Pakistani student would say. Spot on!

Anonymous said...

I hear ya. I teach a Algebra repeater class (every term) mostly because kids "fail" the test by not showing up. It kills me that students rather be in the same algebra class their entire high school careers (note: they also take algebra in middle school).

Maxiel said...

THIS! This right here makes a lot of sense ad made my day. I remember when we were having that meeting in your room the other day, and I remember speaking about how most of the people in the school don't even bother trying if they decided to bullshit their way into the school. Now you understand how I feel about this Manjee.

Yo Mista said...

@ Maxiel:
I've always felt how you feel Maxiel. I was also the kid who came to high school everyday no matter what.

It's nice to hear students like you speak up about this in school though, because most of your fellow classmates are quite apathetic. And the administrator needs to realize that its recruiting could be a lot better. If the mission of the school is to give kids a second chance, we need to find better means of screening who is really in it for the second chance.

Personally, if I knew kids were getting away with doing shit without having to do put in the same leg work you are, I would be pissed.