26 May 2015

The Worst Way A Student Makes You Feel Uncompassionate

 A student makes several mistakes of effort, attitude, or has just struggled with the content and is certain for a failing grade, yet comes to you right before the end of the term asking if they "still have a chance of passing." 

You've provided numerous retake opportunities, assessed in multiple formats, and taken other late work in an attempt to get as many kids over the hump, but you STILL feel like crap telling a kid they aren't going to get credit.

I'm sure this is a sign of compassion for my students, but it's super frustrating, right? As teachers, we can spot these situations coming by midterms, we try the things WE can to save the ship, but until the light bulb comes on for the student, our hands are tied.

How do we recover from this (to face the torture with just as much heart and compassion next year):
1. Expect continual improvement from yourself.

What leaves me open to guilt about these students is self-doubt that there was something else I could have done to save this student. "If only I'd..." If you can find peace with yourself that you continued to perfect your practice in the art and science of teaching, then I think you can silence a lot of your own what-ifs.

2. Conference with the student about the course failure.

You''re hoping they at least learn something from the experience, right? I had a reflection piece in my final this semester that asked the students what content skills and academic skills they learned this semester. With the particular student that prompted the image above, after giving her 2 more chances at a retake test over semester material, she said, "but I can't do any better - I don't know this stuff." My next point to her was that her statement told ME that the grade was a good reflection of what she had learned. "But I need my credit..." Maybe she could use more conferencing. ;)

3. Find a way to make someone else's day. 

The reason you teach is to care for children, change their lives, and make someone's day. So you didn't shine rainbows for this student on this day, but finding another student to share with might leave you with a more even scorecard.

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Thanks for sharing!