No doubt by now some people have read my preceding post and are indignant for poor Clarence. She wants him to drop out? What kind of a teacher is she? Doesn’t she know that kid needs an education?
To quote a line from the previous post: How can you come to school almost every day and have a “0″ in more than one class at this point in the quarter? That’s the key question.
I can help answer that question. When his teacher hands Clarence a test or quiz, he does not bother to answer a single question. Ever. When that teacher puts a daily short opener on the board, a five-minute starting activity, he does not bother to do a single one of these starting activities. He writes nothing. He produces nothing.
His teachers, the deans, the counselors, probably the social worker, too — everybody is trying to get work from Clarence. We are failing en masse. If we were merely failing Clarence, I’d sign off without hesitation on the ongoing, progressively more desperate attempts to pull this kid back into the game.
But the cost of this passive-resistant academic behavior extends beyond the borders of Clarence’s desk. So much misbehavior is embedded in the idea of having no points when you are more than 2/3s of the way through the quarter. It’s not like Clarence is just sitting there. He talks nonstop to his friends some days, never about the material, until I give up and send him out. I call his mom. She tells me she is trying but can do nothing with the boy. He writes on desks. He tosses pencils or candy wrappers out the window. He’s got plenty of energy and no desire to enter the learning game. His other teachers are tearing out their proverbial hair trying to find a way to help this kid. If you sit with him, one-on-one, you can make a little headway. He’s not hostile, and he’ll work if he has your full attention. He likes the attention. But in a class of 30 kids, one-on-one time is necessarily limited, especially since many other kids who are trying to learn would love that one-on-one time.
Eduhonesty: Here’s why I hope Clarence drops out when he’s old enough. When I send this boy out for doing no work or for talking — and I mean NO work — then a couple of his friends almost immediately begin working harder and smarter because the interruptions stop. The whole class changes some days. Kids who are frequently looking over at Clarence in disgust look at me in gratitude and we all start enjoying ourselves more. The lesson stays more focused. Student enthusiasm notches up. My own showmanship gets a chance to come out of the closet. As enthusiasm for the topic picks up, my pleasure in answering student questions creates an atmosphere conducive to more questions. Depending on the topic and timing of Clarence’s ejection, overall levels of student learning may not only increase, they may soar. There’s a very real cost to our desperate attempts to keep this boy in the classroom, a cost to every other student in that classroom. It’s past time to ask if our efforts to save Clarence are fair to other students. We wouldn’t let Clarence continually beat up or harass fellow students.
(Well, American education is screwed up enough that I’m not sure we wouldn’t let him do this for a few months, but I like to think that eventually we’d suspend him and after enough time he’d go to an alternative school where he might stay. Or might not. I remember when a girl who’d hit a teacher got sent to an alternative school a few years ago. She returned to school a few weeks later when she got thrown out of the alternative school. The teacher was pretty upset.)
Oops. Went sideways there. To get back on track, Clarence’s antics are not victimless crimes. Other students lose when he is in class. It’s time to let him leave school. If he won’t leave, it’s time to send him home.