Lessons at the 11th & a Half Hour
(c) Staci Stallings, 2002
Learning is not for the faint of heart. Just ask the thousands of students who are trying to learn but just not getting it. They aren't bad kids. They aren't stupid. For some reason there are certain points for which they need more help.
However, because it seems like they aren't trying, no one helps them, and they begin to believe (erroneously) that they really are the problem.
Parents who see their children slamming into these types of obstacles in school usually choose to employ one of two tactics: 1) Look the other way and hope for the best, or 2) Ground the child and punish, punish, punish until the child relents and changes his or her ways or fails entirely. As a former teacher and current parent, I can tell you with almost perfect certainty: Neither of these approaches works.
Although also true in the realm of peer pressure and friends, this is especially true when it comes to schoolwork. Many parents are at a loss, however, to figure out alternative measures to get their kids turned around and headed in the right direction when something goes awry. Even parents who really care often become frustrated when threats and punishment don't work. How do I know? Because I have the immense honor of being an aunt to a great kid who taught me just that.
A few years back this young man was enrolled in a Freshman Honors English course. Unfortunately his teacher believed that because the kids were "honors," that meant that she could give them work, and they could do it-with no teaching required. Now this young man was a smart kid, but English was not his best subject. Further, he had never bothered to learn grammar. When he got into this class, the teacher gave worksheet after worksheet in which the student had to identify the classification-noun, verb, adjective, adverb-of each word. He tried, but with no further instruction and lacking a good background in this process, he was stuck. When he asked for help, the teacher told him she didn't have time. Neither Mom nor Dad knew how to help him, and so for a whole semester he floundered.
Then two days before the final, facing a grounding from Mom and Dad not to mention summer school, he came to see me. I suppose I was a last-ditch effort. In fact, I don't think he really thought it would do any good.
So it was at the 11th and a half hour that we started over at the beginning. Did he know that every the, a, and an were adjectives? No. He had no idea. Bam. Thirty points in the plus column on every paper without more than ten seconds of teaching. Every sentence has a noun and a verb. Find those two next. Bam. Another twenty points. And so it went.
We worked two hours the first night, four more hours the next day. At the end of the second day, I asked him, "When we started, what did you think you would make?" "A 20 if I got really lucky." "And now?" "Now, I will be hacked off if I don't get a 90."
A 20 to a 90 in four hours-after he had spent a whole semester being frustrated. Needless to say, he passed the test with enough points to get him un-grounded and out of summer school. Truth is, he never had to be in that position in the first place, but it got to that point because the teacher wasn't helping and his parents didn't know how to help. My question now is: How many other students out there are in this same position? How many are simply giving up on themselves and on life? How many give up and take the grounding-believing that it really is their fault? In my mind, one is too many.
We need to find a way to help these kids before the 11th and a half hour. We need to find a way to help them before we jump to the conclusion that they are just not trying. Parents, teachers, people who care. We need to find a way to help them. Period.
Check out Staci's website. http://www.stacistallings.com You'll feel better for the experience!