Today I was talking to a tutor about why a particular student was making a gross error in her subtraction of numbers. Apparently when the student was borrowing numbers, she was adding 10 to the number instead of 1. It was an easy fix, but how did she get to 6th grade making such an error?
I queried the tutor and said, “How is it possible that this student is making such a huge error in her subtraction and it was never caught?”
She responded, “I don’t know.”
I said, “Wouldn’t her teachers have caught that error by now?”
Her response: THEY HAVE BIGGER FISH TO FRY THAN THAT. THEY CAN’T WORRY ABOUT THAT.
Stunned with this obvious buy-in of burned out teachers, I said, “Didn’t they look at her work. If they looked at her work, it would have been obvious how she made such an error.”
Her response: Well, obviously it’s the elementary teacher’s fault for not catching it sooner.
This is the kind of stuff I hear from teachers with 20 + years of teaching who generally hate their jobs. It’s always someone else’s fault and someone else’s responsibility to teach a child. Blah Blah Blah. When is the last day of school?
America, I hope this isn’t the new breed of teacher out there–the teachers who have BIGGER FISH TO FRY. I don’t know what bigger there are to fry. Finding an egregious error of a student and correcting it in ANY grade seems to be a big fish to fry. If a child is continually getting problems wrong without the added analysis of WHY the child is making the problems in first place, then this child is doomed to fail. In this particular case, the student in question is receiving tutoring that her family pays for out of their own pocket for us to catch that huge error.
I know the Common Core has people running scared; I know what it’s like to teach tough students–I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I know what stress is like. But seriously.
Clearly this is symptomatic of the lack of reflective teaching, constructive thought, analysis of data, understanding how to differentiate instruction, and creative brainstorming. This is an example of learned helplessness.
Student success is the biggest fish to fry in my book. That means looking at OBVIOUS errors from students. That means making a chart analysis of what my students do and don’t understand and addressing it in appropriate interventions. And an intervention like that would take about a day to fix if that. An after school tutoring program could have fried that fish …
No, I’m not an overly idealistic dewy-eyed novice.
I also know the other side of the equation: inane senseless reports to create, huge caseloads of students, lack of funding, budget cuts, lack of appropriately trained staff, bureaucratic insanity.
When I coached soccer (eons ago), I always said (mimicking my coaches) Keep Your Eye on the Ball …
So I want to reach out to the teachers looking at everything else (the red herrings) and NOT keeping their eyes on the BALL to step up their game and Keep Their Eyes on the Goal in mind … that is your students’ success. And hopefully to remember that they are the biggest fish to fry on your agenda list.
Now get moving ….