Saturday, June 07, 2008

Almost there

Sorry for the lack of response this week.  It was the week of Senior panic and my move back into the newly remodeled classrooms.  Needless to say, it has been a very busy week.

"Senior Panic" is an actual phenomenon that begins in mid-May and runs through the end of the school year.  Symptoms vary, but can include tears, anger, reservation, angst, and a massive urge to blame everyone under the stars.  My approach to Senior Panic is generally straight-forward, although it is often misconstrued for not caring.  I don't give extra credit.  No, I'm not going out of my way to make sure your child walks the stage.  I know.  I just stoked the ire of parents around the country that think that I've given up on their children.  Here's my rational.  I've been there for your child for the last eight months, before school, breaks, after school, online, by phone, by personal visits, and I've made myself constantly at the need of the student.  I'm not going to go through eight months of effort in a couple of weeks because the realization that I've been serious since September has just set in.  That's not to say that I'm not available for help.  I've been in my classroom from the end of my teaching day (1:30 p.m.) to about 5 p.m. almost every evening this week and I could count the number of students who have come in on one hand.  Others often engage in the following conversation.  Tell me if I'm being unreasonable.

"Mr. Silva-Brown, what's on the Final?"

"Everything we've gone over since January."

"What's that?"

"It's on the board", at this moment I point my finger at the white board that has the topics that should be studied for the Final.  They've been up for three days.

"I need more details than that."

"You have all you need in the notes."

"Can you give me a copy of the notes."


"Why not?"

"Because they were to be copied when we went over them."

"But I didn't copy them."

"I know."

"What am I supposed to do?  This is my only class I'm failing in."

I used to get angry at that response.  Now I'm pretty matter-of-fact about it because I've programmed every chance for a student to pass into my course.  I student that fails has worked at failing, and trying to tug on the heart strings doesn't work any more.  I don't think I'm being unreasonable.

This doesn't mean that I'm not disappointed.  Students fail my class that I really like.  Some that I see tremendous potential emanating from don't walk either.  A few even bring me to a near tear because I see the "total package" vibing off their aura minus one thing, the drive to work. And that's why I don't bail them out here.  Because "out there", the consequences of not following through can be much worse.

There are other Senior Panics.  The "my student has never had anything below an A" is always entertaining.  Usually there is a little nativity regarding the power Senioritis.  They will gladly tell each other that they all got into college and have stopped working, but they'll tell their parents that the teacher is unfair.  Some shocked Senior Panics are from students that have looked at their grade for the first time in months, and have watched a C+ drift downward significantly.  That leads to the extra credit question, which I decline.  But believe it or not, most Seniors actually don't panic, and most are satisfied with their grades.  I don't have many A's this year at all, but I also have very few F's, actually half of what I usually have.  However my list of D's is mammoth, and for the most part, students don't seem to care.  A vast majority are perfectly content with going to High School Deux, otherwise known as Mendocino Junior College. 

Last week of Year Seven is about to start.  I'll blog when I get the chance.            

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