Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Last week my ninth graders started getting ready to read To Kill a Mockingbird. They may not have been completely aware of it as my way of getting them ready was to do a webquest on the history of Jim Crow. I adapted this last year when I was teaching TKAM for the first time. Odd, it was my twentieth year of teaching, but my first time teaching that novel. I guess it isn’t really big in the seventh and eighth grades around here. Today I passed out index cards for them to write five things they learned about Jim Crow from the webquest. If the chatter I heard during class is any indication, this assignment didn’t go well.

They had a paper to write on what they had learned and I tried to take it up today. It was due yesterday, but I was absent and could not collect it. Discounting the absent students and those at the ALC, I had about 23 students Friday who received the assignment. I had seven turn in the paper. Two more claimed it was done, but not here due to computer problems. We shall see.

This is, unfortunately, not an isolated incident in the classes I teach. Assignments, whether to be done in class or at home, are viewed by many of my students as optional. Over half the ninth graders did not do a parts of speech project that was required of them (I was told by my department head I had to review the parts of speech with my students). Most took a 150 point zero. Why? It wasn’t that difficult, just involved enough that it would take them some time to do it well. And most opted not to. The grades they earned for it were not, on the whole, very good. They had a chance to revise it and turn it in for a higher grade. One student took me up on that.

It is not just this class. It is not just ninth graders. It is not just my school. My wife has similar problems in a tenth grade physical science class in a high school in Georgia. And her class is required for graduation! As is my ninth grade English class.

I guess the best I can do is not take it personally. It seems that this is not aimed specifically at me, but it is more of a growing problem. I am not a big homework giver, but when I do give it, I expect it to be done. Maybe I am just too unreasonable. I expect them to care about their educations. Maybe I should check up on my Maslow’s Hierarchy again.


PoetLady said...


It must have been SO frustrating!

I don't know why kids aren't motivated but it's been going on for a long time, even back when I was in high school.

I hope things got better. Are you out for the summer?

I love "To Kill a Mockingbird." I'm glad you're teaching it to them, I had never read it until last year.

Maria (PoetLady from LJ)

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T said...

Hi Art. I am new to the world of blogs and have been doing a little exploration. Much of what you have written really resonates with me. I am a teacher too, and sometimes feel that teacher totally defines me (like you, I don't know if that is a good thing). I enjoy your blog because of its honesty. Keep it coming.

Amanda said...

Do you suppose they expect little of themselves because since birth little is expected from them. How many parents do you know that cater constantly to their kids, and don't ask them to be responsible for anythin?. I already hold my 5 year old accountable for his actions, his possesions, and give him house hold responsibility. I hope this will give him a sense of pride and teach him responsibility. He is only 5 and time will only tell if the lesson lasts.

dbanwart said...

It seems that every year the kids get less and less motivated sad I know, that is my passion is to make kids not only learn but want to be here and learn and have fun...what a concept!!!