June 05, 2007

My very first post EVER... from guest blogger ZTZCheese

Hi there. Some of you may recognize me from various and sundry comments, but in general, I'm a big fat lurker. This is my very first blog entry ever. Yes, I know. Frankly, I'm just not a writer. Sit me down over diet Coke or coffee or something, and I will talk your freaking ear off. Ask me to write, however, and it's either a novel or a sentence – no halfway from me.

A few weeks ago, during my fairly usual rant to CTG about my day at work, she suggested I take blog keys and post about it. The particular story in question was going to be a lot of work to type up and make coherent, though, and I didn't have the time to write a freaking essay. But I have another story for today that isn't so complicated. It’s definitely something smallish to mark that first tentative toe-dip into blogging.

I am a middle school math teacher (ah, that explains a lot, doesn't it?). I teach in a district where the primary student populations are Armenian and Hispanic. I have a student named Greg who really needs to be in Special Education, but his parents refuse to allow the placement. Greg is Armenian. Greg's mom is adamant that he just needs more patience and tutoring.

Now, my take on Special Education is that too many kids are lumped there for stupid reasons. I have a lot of students who have phantom "auditory processing disorders" who I suspect are just 12-year-olds who are too distracted to pay attention. Yes, I know that makes me a bad person who is going straight to hell.

Greg will avoid reading whenever possible. He will come up to my desk and ask me to tell him what to do rather than read the instructions. Ask him to read out loud, and he will clumsily sound out words. I'm not convinced he understands what he's reading, either. He doesn't often follow directions, at least. Clearly, information has trouble getting into his little head.

I am currently working with my students on a project requiring the definitions of acute, right, and obtuse triangles. I have done this project every year since I started teaching 4 years ago, and I know that every time, I get many definitions for acute, right, and obtuse angles. This year, I was convinced I would keep them on the straight and narrow. No more glossary definitions. Students scanning the glossary for "acute" will find the definition of "acute angle" above "acute triangle". It's depressing how many of them will just seize on the first similar-sounding item. Bless them for thinking to look in the glossary, but not today.

I gave a loooong, way over the top talk about how they could avoid the fate their predecessors had not. We were going to copy (gasp!) the definitions straight out of the text. I instructed my students to copy them onto a lined paper for homework. I interrupted those kids AT LEAST six times to make sure they were tracking on the correct page. “What are we NOT going to do?” “Use the glossary”. “What page are the instructions on?” “Page 404”

The next morning, Greg came up to my desk with a gigantic grin on his face. “Mrs. Cheese, I finished my homework!” I was suitably enthusiastic and congratulatory. He then proceeds to shove the paper in my face and ask, “Did I do it right?”

Sigh. I hate that. But it’s Greg. Greg needs that kind of affirmation.

So I look for “acute”, as that will tell me all I need to know. As I feared, I saw a picture of an angle. Then I looked at the text. “Did I do it right?” he asked again. Sighing, I looked up at his hopeful face.

“Well, Greg, aside from the fact that it’s in Spanish…

“What?” gasped a Hispanic student at Greg’s group, “Lemme see!” A very confused Greg handed the paper limply to his group mate. “Oh my God, it’s in SPANISH!” pronounced Carlos. Carlos then proceeds to show the paper around to his Spanish-speaking friends. A ripple spreads over the kids.

Now, a good teacher would have put a stop to this. A good teacher would have taken one look at Greg’s face, which was just now starting to register that, the ruckus? It might not be a good thing. That's what a good, compassionate teacher would have done. What was I doing? Laughing so hard that I had to turn my chair towards the wall.

Mystery solved below:

Not only did Greg not follow the directions to use the text, he used the Spanish-English Glossary in the back of the book. And he had no idea he’d done it.

The most priceless thing was that the more vocal Spanish-speaking students were looking at Greg like Hell had just frozen over. They couldn’t compute how in the heck he had managed to accidentally write in Spanish. I hate to say this, but everyone in the class knows that he’s not… a top student, to say the least. All of a sudden, he was someone of interest.

My big regret: I didn’t keep the paper – Greg took it, erased the definitions, and re-wrote the correct definitions.

He didn’t even notice that he was writing in a different language. Not even when writing the Spanish n (How the hell do I get it to display?). And he doesn’t need Special Ed. Right. Got it.

Posted by ztzcheese at June 5, 2007 09:04 PM | TrackBack

Poor Greg. I hope things work out better for him some day.

This is a great story!

Welcome to the blogosphere.

Posted by: Aaron at June 5, 2007 10:15 PM

Poor Greg...great first post. You could do a blog just on student stories alone! Of course, it would have to be anonymous!

Posted by: Greta at June 6, 2007 05:10 AM

since that will post correctly, let me put the code in with spaces (remove the spaces and quotes to get it to post the character: "& # 241;"

I have this page bookmarked for special HTML character codes:

Posted by: wRitErsbLock at June 6, 2007 05:48 AM

That sure is a good post -- from someone who's "not a writer!" ;-)

What would the parents have to say about this incident?

Posted by: Marie at June 6, 2007 11:14 AM

Yay ZTZ. welcome to the writing part of the internet...

Posted by: GMT at June 6, 2007 02:49 PM

Welcome. Hope you continue to post.

Posted by: vw bug at June 7, 2007 12:42 PM

As a fellow teacher, I feel your pain. And you'll do fine at blogging. Welcome!

Posted by: Mrs. Who at June 7, 2007 07:09 PM

Have you considered dyslexia as the culprit of Greg's problem with reading? If he's dyslexic, he does not need Special Ed -- he needs a multi-sensory approach to reading. And he needs it ASAP or he will just end up being another statistic . . .

Posted by: Dave at June 8, 2007 02:27 PM

Has Greg been tested? He sounds like he might have some attention deficit problems. If he needs "patience and tutoring", he can get this in the special ed program. Do what you can to get him in there so he can feel some success and have a more positive attitude about learning.
Show the parents the benefits. As a parent, I know it's a difficult decision to make, but special ed can help many kids, the earlier the intervention, the better.He may even need medication which could help him, ALONG WITH the extra help.

Posted by: Alicia at June 10, 2007 06:08 AM

Using your numeric keypad, type 241 while holding down the "alt" key. You should get your ñ as easy as pi.

Posted by: Elisson at June 15, 2007 09:51 AM