Friday, January 30, 2009

(untitled 292)

I was working as a substitute teacher at an elementary school today and was presented with an interesting situation. We had four students working on a worksheet, all of whom needed significant amounts of help (going over questions, reading/pronouncing words, etc.), but I didn't have enough resources (read: time) to help all of them as much as they wanted. There was an aide there to help, which was nice because one of the students was particularly uncooperative. When he wants to work, he's just fine, but when he's decided that the assignment is "hard" or whatever, he flops his head on the table, rolls around, makes weird chirping noises, and generally acts ridiculous. In order to get him (we'll call him "Lego", since that's all he ever talks about in class) to make significant progress in class, he would probably demand something around 95% of my attention and resources. The other kids would require something like 20-30% each. While the aide was there, she focused primarily on Lego, leaving me to deal with the other three. Perfectly manageable. Once the aide left, I couldn't help all four students to do a good job. What do you do?

Essentially, I just ignored Lego. He spent his time whining, flopping on the ground, and asking me if he could show me something funny on the computer. I told him no and to stay in his seat every minute or so and helped the other three do their work. I ended up with a 75% success rate (three kids did well on the assignment, and Lego completely punted it), which is better than I think we would have done if I'd tried to keep Lego focused. (Dealing with Lego is sort of like wrestling a water buffalo, or convincing a brick wall to move aside for you.) If I'd tried to deal with Lego and gotten him to do anything, I probably would have been closer to 40%.

The moral of the story? Sometimes you have to leave a child behind. It sounds horrible, sure, but if I were in that same situation again, I'd do the exact same thing.


bawb said...


lanada said...

True story: An 8th grader asked my why July 4 was significant. It was part of his Social Studies assignment. I said something along the lines of, "Seriously? July 4th? The Fourth of July? Fireworks? Star Spangled Banner? Revolutionary War Declaration of Independence God Bless the USA?" He stared at me blankly. The other kids were laughing incredulously at him. He really didn't get it. I told him, "Alas. Another child left behind," and walked away.

Because I am a good teacher.

Lisa B. said...

Another moral of the story: you need a better teacher-pupil ratio in classes where you have high needs students. Another moral: every classroom is a high needs classroom.

[word verification: crasy. Which is what the educational system is, if we're all frank about it.]

DiaNe said...

Turns out? Wrestling water buffalo (plural: Beefalo) is really easy. I'm an expert.*

Thou shalt NOT leave any children behind! Even if it means sacrificing everyone else's education.*

* Note the obvious irony.

Laurie said...

I'd like "Sometimes you have to leave a child behind" on a t-shirt, please. Or perhaps worked into a Theodore cartoon.

Marcene said...

you call him lego, but I feel it was just a nice way of saying blockhead

New Yorker said...

Well done and it makes perfect sense.

~keith not-jones :P