December 11, 2008

You Can Lead a Horse to Water

We currently have a week and one day until the end of our semester. In HS, semesters count. If you fail the semester you will be taking my class again. I have a class with five sophomores/juniors trying to pass English I for the second time.

Currently, four of them are failing again. Two have a chance--their Fs are very high, and they are turning in all their work. When all the grades are in, they should pass. Two have very, very low grades. I have given them multiple copies of every assignment. I check in with them constantly. I push and push to try to get them to do work. I give them extra help, extra time, every little advantage I can think of.

This is the most frustrating part of my job. They could pass. They should pass. They would pass, if they would just do some work.

I just can't make them drink.


Jennifer Miller said...

Ugh! That would be frustrating! Maybe they'll get it through their head after having to do it for the 3rd time??

The Coach said...

I feel your frustration, but perhaps it should not be with the students.

You can't make a horse drink if it's not going to die of thirst. As a fellow teacher (and failer of multiple classes in high school due to lack of dedication), I wonder if we overvalue the importance of compulsory success in certain disciplines. This horse didn't die from failing Functions, Statistics, and Trigonometry ... TWICE.

This situation is not the teacher's fault - it's a school system that assumes every kid needs FST or English 1 or 4 full years of math or a foreign language.

Some people learn which levers work and which ones don't quite early, and they discover that the kind of perfectionism that makes a run-of-the-mill 4.0 student also brings ulcers rather than real success.

If the horse isn't thirsty, why lead him to water anyway?