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Bird's Blog

Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!

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Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Priorities

One of my students is missing.

He has missed 8 of the 12 class meetings we've had so far this semester and 5 of the 6 homework assignments which were carefully designed to help students write the essay that was due yesterday (you can guess, dear readers, if my missing student showed up to class and turned that essay in).

He is a young man from out-of-state, a freshman living in the dorms. At first, I thought he was stoned, but later I began to wonder if he had some sort of learning disability, some sort of processing problem, or if perhaps he was on (or not on?) some sort of psychotropic medication.

He arrived to class on Tuesday (after missing three classes in a row) ten minutes before the end of the class period (class meets twice a week for two hours and 20 minutes). Our class had worked hard that day and I had let everyone out early (a rarity). I was packing up my bag when he came in.

We talked.

"Where were you?" I asked.

He took a brief moment to ponder my question. Then responded slowly, "Eating."

I did not care to pursue that any further with such questions as:
  • It took you two hours and ten minutes to eat lunch?
  • You chose to eat instead of come to class?
  • Did you fly home to eat and come back?
  • What you been smokin' man?
I explained to him somewhat sternly that at this point, he has failed the class.

"How can that be?" he asked incredulously.

I explained how that can be.

"But it's only the 6th week of school. There's time."

I explained how it was highly doubtful he could pass the class.

"You're very pessimistic." he said. "You don't understand, this class is a priority for me."

21 Comments:

Blogger Little Lamb said...

That last statement would get to me. I'd ask If it's such a priority to you, how come you don't show up for class?

You have to show up to class to pass.

October 06, 2006 6:00 PM  
Blogger /t. said...

awwwwww,
give the kid
a pass, bird...

he's here now,
and we owe him a living, eh?

/t.

October 06, 2006 6:38 PM  
Blogger Crashtest Comic said...

You should give him a "B" for having the Balls to say something like that.

Brave kid.

Maybe he's got ebola.

October 06, 2006 7:36 PM  
Anonymous croaking said...

Is there a counsellor he could be referred to so he could be assessed? Funny how we all judge others by how we would/do behave. Maybe there is more to this story than meets the eye. Shouldn't be your priority...more inquiry is required..more support maybe from a behavioural professional source?
Just some thoughts.

October 06, 2006 10:05 PM  
Blogger K9 said...

/bark bark bark

the natural consequences for choices made are natures way of correcting. i did something stupid and ended up failing a famous crip course in UG. seeing what that zero did to my GPA was the mother of all wake up calls.

to croaking: this is not a judgment. it is an observation. however i do see that what motivates me may not another. he may require a cattle prod.

have you told the bold one about your shopping trip with jae? visual aids are helpful i understand.

/howl

October 07, 2006 7:22 AM  
Blogger Bird said...

there is indeed more to this kid's story than meets the eye, of that i'm sure.

i've had two conferences already with this young lad - during which i directly inquired about pot use "are you coming to class stoned?" and also delicately inquired about learning disabilities and psychological concerns.

before that, i directed the student to complete his student questionnaire (which has a space for students to discuss such issues and typically, students find it easier to tell a teacher about such probs via the questionnaire than in person). he never turned in his questionnaire.

i have referred the student to ongoing, weekly tutoring to help his reading, writing, organizational and student skills, but he has not followed up on that referral.

this student isn't giving me anything to go on except his actions and the contradiction between his actions and his words.

his presense (when he remembers to show up) in class undermines the community that we've built up in class. he has not been able to help build that community because he chooses to be absent.

i've learned that as a teacher, i have limited resources. i've tried repeatedly to connect with this kid and bring him around. now i'm done. he robs my time and energy - time and energy which i can use to help someone else, or, god forbid, use for myself.

i have sent him an email, strongly recommending that he withdraw from the class.

there is really nothing more i can do - except hope that the logical and natural consequences of this kid's own actions will provide him with an epiphany.

October 07, 2006 7:51 AM  
Blogger savagefredd said...

It's time to cut him loose, dear. It's out of your hands. Find me one other teacher this kid has at state who invests the emotional and spiritual capital that you do, especially in light of the response. Lest we forget, discipline, boundaries, limits...these are forms of love.
I think we should both get drunk, bird. Soon. I bet you're a hellion when you've a little booze in you. Drop me a line.

October 07, 2006 9:47 PM  
Blogger ThursdayNext said...

Yes, Birdie, it is time to cut him loose. You have done all that you could as a teacher, and boy have I been there, but you are doing the right thing. The failure is going to teach him more than a passing grade, that I am sure of.

October 08, 2006 10:13 AM  
Blogger Little Lamb said...

What subject do you teach, bird?

October 08, 2006 12:59 PM  
Blogger /t. said...

flight
instructor?

/t.

October 08, 2006 2:31 PM  
Blogger Mayden's Voyage said...

Ugghhh- this kind of thing kills me, how did this boy get into college?
How?
I hate to make assumptions (but of course I do)- and perhaps there is something terribly wrong with this kid- but I think Mom and Dad have some share in the blame.
However- if they didn't teach accountability- someone else will- and the lesson is going to be a painful one.
Perhaps though-in your making him accountable- he will learn the most from having been one of your students...I hope so.
And one could hardly ask for a better teacher :)

October 08, 2006 4:01 PM  
Blogger Aunty Belle said...

AH, Bird Beauty, this is a boy who needs that 13th year, mayhap? Ain't ready to be serious jes' yet...and youse right--the other students is being penalized by the behavior of one...not right or productive--looky, ultimately, yore doing the fella a favor, as dawg said, wake up calls is formative.

Youse a fair teach, Bird, doan stress.

October 09, 2006 4:56 AM  
Blogger Jack K. said...

bird, as usual you have found someone who is having an interesting time sorting out his life. (You do have a way of drawing them to you.)

I remember a student in one of my classes who had a difficult time writing papers. The difficulty was, that he did not know how to write, i.e., spelling, word choice, sentence structure, etc. We had a chat. He was informed in a kinder fashion than I am able to explain here, that some folks would attempt to read his paper and state that he was functionally illiterate. It was recommended that he enroll in the remedial writing class. He did. His writing, the next time I read it, was only marginally better.

More importantly, his reason for being at our university rather than at State was his parents. He wanted to study animal husbandry to continue his life's work as a rancher. The folks wanted him to study something entirely different. Mayden's comment about parental responisbility may be on target for your young lad.

I am particulary drawn to k9's response about choice and consequence. Apparently this young man has yet to understand that connection.

On another tack, perhaps he has always been a loner? (I love to do these armchair analyses without all of the facts.) Perhaps he has had difficulty making friends. Perhaps he is spreading his wings in an effort to fly and no one has taught him how to do so. (Too bad he is missing the opportunity to learn from one damned fine flight instructor! /t is right on target here.)

Folks who behave that way do have a way of interfering with the group dynamic. I bet you had your skills tested.

btw, what is the class all about?

I'll check back later.

October 09, 2006 5:05 AM  
Blogger Aunty Belle said...

DANG nabit! I done missed the votin' party?? Lawdy, folks, what a jaw ya'll had on to vote or not to vote, this is the question.

Boney, youse got the plan-TERM LIMITS!!!! 'frow em' out after a two terms.

Bird Beauty, les' us'uns set up the Bird Blogger Party--we'll have the left wing (A bird's gotta fly, doan it??) of the party wear blue and white stripes and thwe right wing trimmed out in red and white stripes and we'll say a POX ON BOTH HOUSES to the clowns in D.C. Hoo-WHee!

But Birdy, all funnin' aside, ya' gotta think agin' about votin, since they's issues other than Feds...what about yore state judges, or yore gov, or state initiatives?

October 09, 2006 5:13 AM  
Blogger Bird said...

never you fear AB - i still vote (jaded and cynical as i am), i'm just not registering others to vote this fall.

jack - what is the class? a remedial (though we use the term "develomental") integrated reading and writing course two levels below the first-year composition course. students may gain admission to the university and then discover when they take the placement, that their reading and writing abilities are not up to college level. this particular course is two semesters long and students who are highly successful will, by the end of the second semester, have earned their first-year comp units.

i appreciate your comment that perhaps this student is trying his wings for the first time without ever having any instruction at all, though i doubt that's the case (minimal instruction perhaps, but not complete lack). i have tried to help him in this endeavor, but there's only so much i can do. he may be caught in that adolescent trap for a bit- needing flight instruction but insistent on pretending he doesn't because he wants so badly to be independent - and so by insisting on a solo flight, he has crashed. may serve him well in the long run though.

a nod here to /t for providing us with the flight instructor metaphor - hahaha! witty fellow!

October 09, 2006 6:03 AM  
Blogger CROAK said...

that is the first time K9 has ever referred to me.. Ohhhh I think I am going to feint/faint.....ohhhhhhhh

October 09, 2006 6:07 AM  
Blogger Aunty Belle said...

Okey-dokey Bird, youse votin' after all...an' honey, wait till ya see what ya may need ter vote on next! Want 8 more years of Bush?? (better'n hilary of course, but still...) All explained on FRONT porch. We need ter get up a smackdown posse for this thang.

October 09, 2006 9:05 AM  
Blogger Pete Bogs said...

this kid has either been taking the drugs and/or listening to the rock and roll music...

October 09, 2006 9:13 AM  
Blogger Mrs. B said...

Bird,
You truly do embody the essence of a teacher. There is nothing more that you can do. Let him fall. The crash landing won't kill him, but it will definitely give him some much needed contemplation time while he is in recovery. Do not waste another educational breath on him; there are so many more who will benefit from it.

October 09, 2006 5:25 PM  
Blogger Jack K. said...

The class was very similar to the one you described above. However, it was 25 years ago, so naturally the names will change to protect/pay those on the rise in their chosen educational field.

I wonder if this young man spends much time with videogames?

Your assessment of his effort to be independently independent without knowing just how to do it is probably spot on.

My wife's, niece's son is going through some similar issues with teenaged first love and loss. I am pleased that he is willing to confide in me.

Growing to adulthood can be such a pain.

We are blessed to know a teacher as competent and caring as you.

As it is written in the Messiah's Handbook we are all learners, doers, teachers.

Continue to...

serve others, care about those you serve and share the love in your heart.

Namaste`

October 10, 2006 9:06 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Having a child with mild but special needs, this tugs at my heart strings.

I think it is admirable that you are interested and even blogging about the fellow. I think that is the sign of a great teacher. One who truly is caring and effective.

My Mother was a college professor Beginning English in Newark NJ. She had one story of a student who came from some African country and had a tough time with the class. She saw something in him though... perhaps it was passion... she tutored him for years... just as a friend or mentor. In time he became the head of the school newspaper and went on to law school. At the colleges memorial service for her, he came and spoke about how she took interest in this 17 year old odd kid... and here he some years later... a success. She would have been so proud! Actually she was very proud of him.

Thanks for the touching post.

October 11, 2006 4:28 PM  

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