Having a bad teacher day…

posted 3 years ago in Career
Post # 3
Member
1377 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2015

I’m not a teacher – I’m a teaching assistant at a large university. I teach first semester chemistry. 

Last semester, my students were great. Very interactive, very interested, etc. This semester is near the exact opposite, and I also have quite a few doing poorly. 

If you have a track record of doing well, it is not you. Especially if you have been trying in every way to help them. Students need to help themselves as well. If they are reading at a very low level 1) as a history teacher, it’s not your job to teach them to read 2) it would not surprise me that they’re not doing well. It’s unfortunate for the student, but you are not responsible for anything but teaching them history. 

 

What probably needs to happen is to force the students to increase their personal involvement in the course. As a TA, I create office meetings for the students failing, and set them up with a tutor/extra help created specifically for them. I also break them up into groups and have them work out problems/concepts and then present to the class. 

Do they get grade reports – do they know they’re failing? Sometimes it takes a shock of ‘AHH I’m failing’ to kickstart the studying etc unfortunately. 

 

Good luck! 

Post # 4
Member
4043 posts
Honey bee

@Ms.GoodEarth:  Hang in there, it can definitely be very tough working with students below grade level. I don’t teach, but I am an administrator at a public, charter middle and high school (90% free and reduced lunch) with many students well below grade level.

One of the things I have seen teachers do with students who are struggling (especially with reading) is incorporate reading skills/lessons into all classes (not just English class). There are skills based techniques and programs that can help (sorry I don’t know any off the top of my head). 

One of our reading teachers last year worked with the history teacher, science teacher and writing teacher to do cross curiculum work. So they incorporated history into reading/writing class, as well as science into those classes as well. It helped students practice, synthesize and better understand/be exposed to the material. 

Is it possible for you to perhaps work with a reading teacher to strategize some effective practices?

ETA: Were most of your students below grade level last year? If so, then it could be more of a motivation/awareness problem that another PP mentioned. If not, it may be the literacy/content problem.

Also, if you haven’t already, I highly recommend Teaching with Love and Logic, as well as Tools for Teaching. They are both great resources for 1) connecting with and motivating students and 2) learning to not internalize problems that are not your fault (i.e., student’s failing). I have done a reading group with other teachers and I co-teach an Art class for 5th and 6th graders. These books have been so helpful for working with students and learning more effective techniques (especially unmotivated or definant ones).

Post # 5
Member
4043 posts
Honey bee

@gillykat824:  I disagree, while it may not be here job directly to teach them how to read, there are practices/techniques that she can incorporate that will improve literacy skills and in turn help improve competency in her subject.

I agree that student’s need to be responsible for their learning, but if they can’t read, then they likely need help. Every teacher, in every subject can help with literacy. It is extra work, but if OP is interested, there are techniques that can be worked into her history lessons. I have seen it done quite a bit before.

Post # 7
Member
5543 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: December 2011

Maybe I am missing something but what the heck are students reading years below their grade level doing in an APUSH class!?!? It is hard enough as an advanced student who reads at or above level. There is no way in hell a NOT “advanced” student is going to pass APUSH. That is kind of the point of the “AP” part. Not everyone can do it. The AP test (and thus the classes that teach for them) are intended to be at a college level of comprehension and learning. Not something someone with a 7th grade reading ability is going to do well. And it isn’t fair to them to expect it! It sets them up for failure.

Post # 9
Member
4043 posts
Honey bee

@Ms.GoodEarth:  Ah I see, we used to just have ELA as well and no designated reading teacher. The AP for All is definitely an unfortunate challenge.

We actually just moved to a somewhat controversial model this year where about 1/3 of our students only take reading, writing and math (no science or social studies). They are our students who struggle the most and are 2-3 grade levels behind. The concept is that they spend twice as much times doing core subjects until they master them. They do infuse history and science when possible into their curriculum, but not a lot. Some people have been against it, but we have seen dramatic growth among half the students in the program. They are catching up and it is working well. The other half in the program are very difficult to motivate and often have severe misbehavior issues. So we are still trouble shooting solutions.

I really think the two books I recommended can give you a fresh perspective and new approaches (even if you just skim them). Good luck OP!

Post # 10
Member
4043 posts
Honey bee

@Ms.GoodEarth:  Good idea on the library system! We don’t have a real library either (yep, small charter school as well), so each classroom has about 30 books in it. Students are required to carry an independent reading book on them at all times. They read for 30 minutes in homeroom and anytime they finish their work. They have to take 3 accelerated reader tests per quarter as well. 

It can be so hard to get students to read, but once they catch on and find something they like, it can be very rewarding.

Post # 11
Member
5543 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: December 2011

@Ms.GoodEarth:  That is quite possibly the most ridiculous and insane thing I have ever heard. I was that kid bored out of my mind in on level classes so I ended up in 5-6 AP and pre-ap classes in HS every year. But just sitting through a week of a math models class while I had to get my schedule fixed to get back into the right math class it was super apparent many of the other students wouldn’t have been able to make it in an AP class. And that is okay! Not everyone is made to be advanced academically smart. But to bring down the kids in AP classes because they can do it and to set up other kids for failure because they just can’t is stupid. The point of AP is it is freakin hard. Half my AP biology class dropped in the first two weeks, same with chem and physics. Because the point isn’t to be easy so everyone can do it! That is what on-level classes are for. Gah. That makes me irritated for you. NO freakin reason a kid who can’t read the textbook should be exspected to sit for the AP test. 

Post # 14
Member
3210 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: January 2014

Can you explain a little bit more about why they’re failing? I mean, literally, what are they failing, and why?

Are they failing tests? Do you create the tests? If so, why are they failing? Are they not memorizing enough at home? Are they not picking up on crucial strategies?

Are they failing essays? Are you grading the essays? Are they understanding your expectations?

It’s just hard to say what you could be doing to help them without knowing what they’re struggling with.

 

Post # 16
Member
3210 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: January 2014

@Ms.GoodEarth:  

Hmm. So memorization is really hard for me to teach (I’ve been teaching for 7 years). It’s like… you can’t really spend enough time in class to have them really nail it, and they HAVE to work at home, but you can’t make them work at home.

I would start playing a butt-ton of games based on memorization–you can just Google them, there are a million. I would have them work in pairs to create mnemonics or rhyming songs to memorize things. I would also try to think through historical narratives and have THEM prepare easily digestible narrative–stories are easier to remember, and discrete chunks can be turned into little short stories that have clear characters, protagonists, antagonists, etc. Have them turn a historical event into a 150-word short story, the funnier the better, and then have them read/perform them.

I find essays MUCH easier to teach (haha, I teach Freshman Comoposition a LOT, so that’s probably why). My #1 trick is after every essay-turn-in, I create a handout with like 3-4 main problems I saw (e.g. “Inarguable thesis statements,” “Vague pronoun use,” whatever) and then I provide several examples DIRECTLY FROM STUDENT PAPERS (obviously anonymous) that are doing it correctly, and several examples that are doing it incorrectly. When they see what you mean in THEIR words, it helps so much! And they love to say, “Ms. F, at the beginning of the year I was on the bad list, and now I’m on the good list!!”

I hope any of that is helpful! I’m sure it’s not all your fault or anything, but it does sound a bit like they’re getting demoralized. If you want to salvage these kids, you have to really shake things up. Also, they HAVE to see improvement, even if you have to lie, lol, or else they won’t start working harder.

When I first started teaching, I had some classes that just… were bad, even when I had JUST finished classes that were really great. There was no saving them. I effed up, they effed up, we all hated each other–it was not good, and they didn’t learn much. But now that I’ve been teaching for a while, I have learned how to redirect the course of things–lots and LOTS of praise, lots of silliness, and lots of showing the students that you give a crap tends to work for me when I can tell a class is going downhill fast.

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