Teaching With No Allies
Case in point: I have a bright 16-year-old in my class who is fully capable of completing assignment, but comes in three days a week between 10 and 11 and is failing all his classes except gym. Previously I had phoned several times to speak to N’s family to give them a heads up, often with phones being disconnected or no one picking up the phone. Today I reached N’s sister who didn’t speak English, but with my poor Spanish she was able to give me his brother’s phone number.
The following conversation clued me in to why N was lazy in the classroom:
Ms. C: Hi there, I wanted to talk to you about my concerns for N.
Brother: What he do now?
Ms. C: Well, I’m concerned for N’s grades….he’s struggling to complete work, and often won’t make the attempt. Of the last 15 assignments N handed in 4.
Brother: Yeah, this has been a problem for a while.
Ms. C: Is there a way you can talk to N this weekend? If this keeps up, he’ll have trouble passing the marking period.
Brother: All I can do is make him go to school, if he doesn’t want to work, I can’t make him. Just fail him.
The conversation went for another minute or two, but I was schmoozing on autopilot while my brain floundered. Just fail him? What, as long as Child Services doesn’t cite you for neglect because the kid is technically attending school it doesn’t matter if he succeeds or not? It made perfect sense why the student didn’t give a damn if he did the work or not…because no one cared at home.
While I’m not going to give up I find this situation very challenging; if the kid doesn’t care, and the guardians don’t care…how can I approach N and increase his productivity?