There seems to be a honeymoon phase in many aspects of life including friendships, relationships and jobs. That feeling that “nothing can go wrong and this is the best thing that has ever happened to me” phase. This phase doesn’t last long: especially in education. Once the honeymoon phase with the students is over each student’s true colors begin to shine through. It’s at this point when it’s easy to tell who really cares about school and who doesn’t. As educators, I feel we naturally want to see everyone be successful and will do anything to help someone achieve that goal. Do I want to build a happy family of learners who value education, agriculture, and most of all, each other? YES! Will that happen? NO! Unfortunately, no matter how good you are, you can’t save them all.
A scary, but true example
I teach an agriculture mechanic technology course second semester. This course is designed as a block class during first and second period. Because of the extra time, we can get through a lot of material; most of which is large scale projects. I have 12 students enrolled: 17% female, 83% male. We have met 28 days (approximately 43 hours and 24 minutes) since the start of the semester. I have a student who has missed 16 of those 28 days. He/she has only been in my class 42% of the time. This does not account for the 9 days he/she has shown up late. He/she has been to my class on time only 11% since January 17th.
How do I teach that student let alone grade him/her? How do I catch this student up on the one random day he/she decides to show up to class? The work that I do in this class can’t be taken home. When he/she does show up I literally have to sit with him/her the entire time because the rest of the class is so far ahead.
This one student, who doesn’t care one bit, is holding back the other 11. I have done nothing but try and help him/her with no prevail.
I work really hard to give timely and specific feedback to my students. I do give zeros but am open minded. I realize giving a student a zero can be detrimental to their self-esteem but how do I grade someone who is never here? How do you grade a student who gave up before the semester even started?
This has been a huge frustration for many teachers and I. Recently, the students in the class have been commenting on his/her absence and saying things like, “oh, he’ll/she’ll still get to graduate because the school will just push him/her through”, “the school has graduated students who have missed more”, “maybe we should start to skip more school if nothing is going to happen”, “it’s not fair that he/she gets away with it”. I never knew that one student, who is never in school, could negatively impact so many.