Monday, September 29, 2008

Feeling lower than the stock market...

At the beginning of this school year I volunteered to be a literacy tutor at the high school. It is part of a pilot program that re-teaches literacy skills one-on-one using a proven method called The Barton System. I went through a few training sessions and some DVD’s and I was ready to meet my student.

My student is a male, seventeen year old, with a literacy level of a first grader. How could this happen?! This student is now a Junior in high school and CAN’T READ! I don’t think there is any dyslexia involved but I’m not sure. The more I learn about him, the more hopeless it all seems to me. He has a full time job. He is chronically tired, ill, and underfed. It seems like he has no academic support at home and that education is not valued by anyone in his family. In fact, I think there is a general attitude that school is the enemy.

It all came to a head last week when he showed up thirty minutes late. He overslept. When he sarcastically told me he was sorry, I lost it and laid in on him. I wanted him to understand how important it was for him to learn how to read and how it would impact his entire life if he threw this chance away. I might as well have been talking to myself because he didn’t want to hear any of it. He just got really angry and shut down.

Since then, we’ve met twice and the animosity in the air is off the charts. He’s cooperating but it’s apparent he hates me. It’s been hard enough to carve this time out to go over to the high school three times a week and keep up with my work, kids, and other volunteering. Why should I do it if 1) he has no interest in learning how to read, 2) he thinks I’m the Wicked Witch?

I am so mad right now! What kind of parents does he have that don’t make sure he’s fed, well rested, and are constantly fighting with the very people who are trying to help their son? What kind of school system keeps promoting a kid to the next grade without addressing this serious problem? How many more of these kids are out there?

The whole situation is making me very, very sad…….


Anonymous said...

Just a note to let you law parents can promote their child to the next grade by coming to the school and signing a piece of paper. The teachers can advise retention, but the parents can overrule it. And they don't have to explain why they are doing it. As a teacher... out of MANY recommendations I've seen a ONE child who was recommended for retention actually retained. Most people feel their child would be better off socially by being with their class. Parents who don't care about school just sign the paper to keep their child from bugging them about hating being held back. This only changes in high school when they are forced onto a credit system, but they get to chose many of their own classes and in the core classes they only have to have a D to get the credit. I'm sorry you're in this position. But I'm grateful to know there are some parents like you who see what teachers are dealing with every day. It's incredibly frustrating. And it is a disaster for many young people who enter the adult world with no clue and few skills. You have my sympathy. -Cheri

Anonymous said...

So, recently you wrote that you're not as left as your brother thinks you are. Then you blog about a high school kid that can't read, with a picture of George Bush as the wicked witch. I'm glad Cheri wrote first, because she wrote a very eloquent, compassionate, and reasoned response. Here's my response:
Thank God Obama is going to be the next president of the United States. Not only will he stop global warming, eradicate poverty and end war for all time, he will finally solve the problem of adult illiteracy. That Bush couldn't do these things in 8 years means that he is either stupid or evil. Boooo Bush. Boooo Republicans.

Too much?
-your upside-down brother.

Life Junkie said...

Yeah. Too much. Do you like Bush? Do you think his education initiatives have improved anything? Nothing to do with Obama at all.

Lastly, when your sister says she's down and has tried to make the world better and failed, should you kick her?

Anonymous said...

Hey, here's one of the amazing things about teaching. The kids do like you. In a few years this kid will look back and be grateful. It's weird to have students come back and thank me for being strict and not letting them mess around wasting class time. They were surly and nasty at the time, but later only remember you wouldn't be fooled with their snow job. And they respect that. They don't respect wimps. Keep doing your best. You are proving the world is a better place.
Love, Cheri

Anonymous said...

I think it's great that you are trying to make the world a better place, and no, I don't think No Child Left Behind is the best plan in the world, and I don't think Bush is a great president. However, when your blog begins with a picture of Bush in green skin and witches costume with an evil cackle, you are saying that Bush is evil and is the cause of the problem that you are writing about. So even though you were sad, I responded more to the picture than to your problem. You have to admit, the picture is inflamatory.
Keep doing good things. You may not see the positive results, but I am 100% sure that they are there.
-your upside-down brother.

David A. Davison said...

I was going to post s similar comment about how his failure to read is all the fault of George Bush as well, but then decided not to.

I agree it's sad when this happens, but it comes down to responsibility of the parent(s) and the student. We check what Kyle does at school daily, go over homework with him in the evenings and communicate with his teachers. If he can't read, obviously it's the fault of someone else, because the parent(s) sure aren't going to accept responsibility. When I talk to Kyles teachers, how many other parents do they communicate with on a regular basis you might ask? Me and maybe two others. Sad.

I applaud what you are trying to do. My aunt is a retired teacher and tried the same thing in the DC area where she lives. She was threatened by one of the students she was trying to help and was unable to continue after the first few weeks because of her fear. I'm sure this was George Bush's fault as well though (just kidding Ellie!).

There is no such thing as personal responsibility in this country, no matter what your political affiliation is.

p.s. your George/Wicked Witch photo sort of looks like my ex mother-in-law.

Ellie said...

But Bush *is* the Wicked Witch. Of the Western World. You are right on, Other Ellie. We leftie Ellies have to stick togehter. (And I hope you're more left than your brother thinks you are!)

Anonymous said...

maybe im missing the point of the blog, but isnt it about the kid that cant read? or is this a political debate?

as far as the kid goes; try a book he may enjoy, if your curriculum allows it.

I was forced to read childrens books at the age of 5 at school, whilst at home i was reading The Travels of Marco Polo and The Hobbit with my mother - not very inspiring to then enter school and be asked to read "The Cat Sat on the Mat". as expected i was a trial and tribulation to most of my tutors that were unable to recognize why their literature bored me to fury

if its a polical debate. then apologies as im not remotely interested

Life Junkie said...

Sadly, they are trying something different with this boy. He was becoming increasingly disprespectful and defiant. The problem wasn't trying to find something he'd like to read. After seventeen years of struggling, he hates reading ANYTHING because it represents failure. His goal is to turn 18 in April, leave home and school and work enough to be comfortable and do what he wants. He'll be at least the third generation in his family to do so. :(