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February 16, 2011


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I often wonder about teachers who have problems with students like James or the *** kids that Ms. Monro blogged about. I've only had three students that I can think of in my 13 years of teaching that I thought were truly poor excuses for human beings, kids that I may have blogged negatively about if I ever blogged about them at all. Three out of, what, thousands? I almost always love my students as if they were my own children, and I feel really bad for teachers that don't see their students that way. This job would really suck if I constantly saw/looked for the worst in the faces in my classroom.

And this speaks to the 'data' discussion below as well...you can't quantify that ability in a teacher. There is no chart or rubric for how much you love your kids and treat them like true individual humans, yet this is such an important part of being a good teacher, of creating the rapport that allows challenging students to want to learn something from you in the first place.

I think about my 'James' a lot, though. I had one (maybe two) as well. She didn't like me very much, though. I don't think I really reached her at all...

Yes, Mark. I see now, and I agree with you. One of the first pieces of data I gathered on him was that he was really smart, something contradicted by his crime, obviously, which was senseless and which he can barely remember doing.

I wonder how school could have captured him - he showed up for track practice, why didn't he show up for class? I'd love to solve that mystery.

And even if he was absent on test day, you still had data on him. That's another of my issues with "data," which is that too many people assume it is only the quantifiable. Data can include observation. I bet that when you examined his writing, you were able to gather observational data which helped you guide how you responded to him... that is also a valid use of data which is harder to transform into a number and therefore less palatable to those who want to use data to make those sweeping decisions I mention in my last comment. I'm not anti-data, but I'm anti-data-abuse-and-misuse.

No, I'm not meaning we shouldn't use data in the classroom, I do as well. I mean that when outsiders look at a school as a percentage or an average score, and then make sweeping policy changes or decisions based on that rather than realizing that the data represents individual learners with individual needs. I think classroom teachers who use data are able to recognize that because they face the individuals each day.

But I use data. Maybe that was my problem. Actually, I think he was absent on test days, so it wasn't available data either way.

Just today, in fact, I taught inference because their MAP scores revealed they didn't know what it was.

I guess I figure that if the state assessment is something they have to pass - in four weeks - in order to graduate, it's part of my job to coach them over that hurdle, through that hoop, whatever you want to call it.

And it is sad that there are still people who will blame you for not doing enough for James. Which is hogwash... you probably did more for him than you will ever realize.

It is so frustrating when people start talking data data data, they need to be reminded we are talking about people here...real people living in the real world, not figures on a spreadsheet.

Dang, you're fast! I just posted this!

I don't know. I don't know if we try to be too much. I think we might hope to be more than we can possibly be, but I don't think we can try too much.

A life is a life is a life. The kind of life someone has behind bars might be a better life for having read Othello. That's what I try to keep in mind.

Great post, Kristin. Thanks for sharing what was obviously a very painful story.

Two thoughts:

1. I wonder if sometimes we try to be too much for our students.

2. I'm really glad I teach third grade. I don't think I have the poise and composure to deal with what you guys deal with.

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