Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Two Students: A Contrast. And Then Some More Opinionated Rants.

I always have an interesting mix of students in my classes now, but this semester, the mix is amazing. It's, it's, it's. . . FANTASTIC. I love it! These students are AMAZING!

Last fall, I had a student enrolled in my Intro Writing class who showed up for the first time in Week Four, after missing three essays and countless class activities and quizzes. Her excuse? She'd been in Cancun and just couldn't bear to leave, even though she knew the semester had started. During the fall semester, she went to Hawaii and to Canada with her family, all during class time. She also missed a lot due to sore throats and headaches; she just didn't feel fit to drive when she was sick.

Then, this semester began, and my students are awesome! Seriously, I love these classes more than I've ever loved a mix of personalities in a classroom. The discussions and conversations and questions and comments are fantastic; this student mix absolutely ROCKS. Then, the third week of class, guess who walked in.

Yeah, she'd been on a road trip with her family and they just didn't get back in time for the semester's start.

She came to class the next week, too. Without her essay, though, because she'd had a sore throat.

Then, she stopped coming to class again, until yesterday. Yesterday, she walked through the door with a shit-eating grin and a list of excuses that included more sore throats and oh, yes, um, she'd been in Vegas.

My students, at this point in this class, have written five essays and have taken one test and eight quizzes. This student has nothing but zeros; she's done NOTHING! I advised her to see the registrar and drop, and try again next semester, and possibly see a doctor about having her tonsils removed. She doesn't want to do that, so we'll see what happens. Actually, I know what's going to happen, but I don't want to sound meaner than I already sound.

On the other hand, all the other students have been here every single time, including the terrible ice storm day when we sent them all straight back home before they all died. I have one student who deserves a post of her own; she's lived through unbelievable heartache and stress, desertion and tragedy, and has overcome it and is making a new life for herself. I have such admiration for her, it's indescribable. If I tell you that being purchased from a reservation orphanage, as a child, for a carton of cigarettes, and raised by a woman who disciplined her by burning her with various substances, are probably the least of her traumas, it might help you to comprehend something of her life. Then again, her life is beyond the comprehension of most of us. I love this woman; she's the most inspirational person I've ever met in real life. Oh, and she's never missed a day of class. Plus, her essays are possibly the most interesting I've ever read. My younger students hang on to her every word.

The public schools are really missing out on some awesome possibilities in countless ways, but one of them is in their insistence on grouping students according to age. Even when a kid can't do the work, the school will pass them on because the ages must be together at all times. When the ages are mixed, everyone learns far more from each other because there are so many points of view. A professor's lesson can be interpreted and shared among generations, giving them a common point of view based on diversity. Plus, it's really helpful to all generations when younger and older students are mixed. Younger students look up to older students, and when the older students are adults, well, let's just say it's really good for young people to hear the opinions of older people who are not their parents. Vice versa for the older students: it's good for older people to hear the opinions of younger students who are not their own children. It gives all parties INSIGHT. A public school won't have mixed generations, but it might have mixes from two to ten years, and each has something important to teach the other. Keeping them separated prevents the sharing of knowledge.

It might also prevent the sharing of fists and sperm, but if a school and a community is willing to put up with such behaviors, that would be their choice, wouldn't it.

Assuming that a roomful of twelve-year-olds is going to work simply because they're all twelve is a ridiculous assumption. Some of those twelve-year-olds have the brains and maturity of a forty-year-old, while others are still playing with action figures between classes, spitting jello through a straw during lunch, and generally functioning down at the kindergarten level in both brains and maturity.

I've maintained for years that classrooms full of ability-levels are the best way to go. Nobody would be rushed, and nobody would be held back and have to spend the school day waiting, waiting, waiting, tutoring in the hallway, and waiting. Unfortunately, my opinion is not shared by anybody with any kind of power to make a change. Plus, parents of kids who would then be grouped with younger kids are totally against it, for reasons that have nothing to do with the self-esteem of their child, who would benefit from such a placement, but are totally based on the self-esteem of the parents themselves, which shouldn't have anything to do with what's good for a child.

As for discipline problems in such a mix, they might be diminished if each kid is being served according to his actual qualifications, and a GOOD school doesn't allow severe discipline problems to remain anyway. Throw the bums out.

Not opinionated much, am I. Plus, self-esteem is 100% meaningless unless it is honestly EARNED.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:05 PM | |


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