If you don’t actually know what “No Child Left Behind” entails, don’t feel badly. I don’t know what all it entails either. The people who wrote the legislation don’t even know what it entails, because things with that law are still a little fluid.
What I know is that I am a teacher. . .and it has long been my goal that no child be left anywhere they aren’t supposed to be–whether that is in the wrong grade, in the cafeteria, or at the museum after a field trip. That being said. . .
I keep on finding inconsistencies in things that we are supposed to be doing for children. SOME of the inconsistencies are “oversights” or “too much too fast” or “too little too late.” Some is that people simply are not doing their job. The former happens to all of us. The latter is turning me into a watch dog for middle school aged children.
I taught a kid two years ago. He’s a weird kid. He had REALLY thick, REALLY long, jet black hair. He “cussed” like a sailor. He drew pictures of naked women (and did a darn fine job, I might add) in his history journal. He still has the hair. . .I’ve not been privy to the other two things in the last two years. He is also BRILLIANT when it comes to reading. He can absorb and regurgitate a very thick, very detailed novel and do some quality anime drawings that go along with it. He has been commended on the reading portion of TAKS the past the past four years. He is HORRIBLE in math. . .and failed it in7th grade. He also failed 7th grade Texas History. I found out the other day that he has been placed in a “reading workshop” class. That is a class for kids who either failed reading TAKS or are 3 grade levels below reading. He’s not even 3 grade levels above in reading. . .he’s several more.
I began investigating why he had been placed in reading workshop. I started by e-mailing the counselor to see if he had, in fact, failed 7th reading TAKS. He had not. He HAD failed 7th grade math and Texas History. It was then that I found out he had been placed in a reading workshop class as “punishment–his consequence” for NOT attending summer school for Texas History. He did attend for math. Now, I found that a bit odd. First of all, you’re wasting this kid’s brain power. Secondly, you are taking a seat in a class that should go to someone else and/or adding a kid to a teacher’s load that doesn’t belong there. Well, I investigated further and higher up and found that it was, indeed, the decision of the retention board that this child should be punished for not attending summer school but COULD be placed in a different class at semester based upon his performance. I decided that I would make a lesson plan for him to do in reading workshop if I had to. . .read and outline To Kill a Mockingbird. . .or read “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O.Henry and draw a comic strip of it. He’s in my mentee’s class, so I have some leverage.
Alright. So I taught this kid upper level reading AND had him in homeroom and was one of the FEW teachers not completely weirded out by him. We hit if off. I didn’t always yell at him. He never drew pictures of naked women in my class. . .he did curse occasionally, but never AT me. He still speaks to me in the halls. So I find him today and say,
“Dude, what’s up with you being in reading workshop?”
He says, “It’s a mistake, but don’t get me out.”
“Well, it’s an easy 100, and I have friends in there.”
“It’s actually NOT a mistake. You’re in there because you didn’t go to summer school for Texas History.”
(Totally shocked) “They said I wouldn’t be punished for that.”
WHOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAA. Hold on. . .WHAT????
“What do you mean ‘They told you’?”
“Well, I signed up for it in summer school, but there weren’t enough kids to make the class, so they called and said I didn’t have to take it since there wouldn’t be a class, and I wouldn’t be punished for it.”
“What were you GOING to take rather than reading workshop?”
“Keyboarding.” (I find out later that keyboarding is for highschool credit–which will do him a lot more good since he should be in honors English classes.)
Then we have the whole why-did-you-fail-TX-history discussion. The answer was that he didn’t like his teacher. . .then we had the whole if-you-fail-the-class-you-don’t-hurt-the-teacher-who-do-you-hurt talk. He knew all the right answers blah, blah, blah. He would still RATHER be in reading workshop for his 13-year-old reasons listed above, but he NEEDS to be in keyboarding.
My ENTIRE POINT BEING. When we say “no child left behind” that means the smart kids too
. . .even if they fail math. . .even if they fail TX history. . .even if they don’t attend summer school. . .and even if they are weird. If you are going to give him a seat in reading workshop where he does not belong–then you might as well give him a seat in TX History instead–he doesn’t belong there either–but that’s what he failed!
I have made the grade level assistant principal aware of the situation. I have drafted an e-mail to the director of instruction (with whom I’ve spoken once in my investigation and hold in the highest regard) and am awaiting confirmation that I should send it.
As mortified and angry as I am about the situation, the pleaser in me. . .the “leave things along that don’t concern you” part of me is nagging away. This is not the only inconsistency I’ve found this year. This is not the only drum I’m beating. I hate to be seen as the whistle blower all the time, but I know that my responsibility is not to the administration but to the kids.
I know I’m right. I know that putting my butt on the line for this kid and stepping on several toes in the process is the right thing to do. But it’s the end of a very long day here, and I’m needin’ some support.