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How Responsible Should High School Students Be?I have taught only junior high classes...

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dmcgillem | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted May 3, 2012 at 10:14 PM via web

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How Responsible Should High School Students Be?

I have taught only junior high classes for the past five years, and this year I was blessed to add a high school English 9 course.  I am struggling, however, with what to do with students who simply choose not to do the work.  I have tried everything I know to do, and there is one (an older student retaking the course due to previous loss of credit) who simply does not complete work if it has to be done outside of class.  I don't have this problem with my junior high kiddos, but if I did, I would have no problem with sitting them down in my room during their study hall and basically giving them no choice but to complete the assignments. I have talked with this student privately several times about completing work and have even offered to waive the late penalty for each assignment turned in, but there is still nothing turned in.  My problem is this:  Do I let this student fail, reasoning that this is high school and it's time to let logical consequences take effect, or do I pull this student in during his study hall (I have a class then) and sit him down to do the work while I'm there to make him?  We live in a rural community where coal mining and farming are the occupations of choice for those who aren't college-bound, and I know that he simply doesn't see why he needs to learn about Romeo and Juliet (or anything else that doesn't directly pertain to his future plans).  I have tried to bend a lot of the assignments to his interests (agriculture in the Elizabethan Era, for example, for research) but I still don't see any work.  I don't feel right about just letting him fail.  My own son is a lazy freshman, and when I see that he has missing work, I'm on his back, but this kiddo doesn't have that at home.  Is it right that he should fail because there is no one there to make him do it like I do my own?  I really need some input on this.  Thank you!

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 3, 2012 at 10:33 PM (Answer #2)

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I live and teach in the same kind of place except we have farming and farming as our choices (well, there's also driving a truck that hauls farm produce) for those who don't go to college.  The same thing happens a lot here because there's no real cultural push from families for most of our students.

I think that you've gone far enough.  The way I see it, if you bend over farther and farther, eventually you reach the point where the kid is not really earning his pass.  I'm not at all sure that that benefits him long term.  You're not letting him fail, he's choosing to fail.  Maybe someday he'll snap out of it and decide that education is important, but until then, "forcing" him to pass isn't going to make him care.

Good luck with your decision and with coping with it once you make it.  It's a really tough call and it's tough to carry out that decision either way.

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 3, 2012 at 11:33 PM (Answer #3)

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I have worked in an oil field community where most students could drop out of school and make more money than I earned as a teacher, so I understand your predicament well.  My best success was in helping the students understand that I was teaching them how to use their brains.  Romeo and Juliet isn't important to them, but learning how to read something they have a hard time with could help them read technical manuals or training materials.  In the end, I was able to convince many that I cared about their ability to learn, not just their ability to learn my subject.  The students, for the most part, respected that, and it made a difference in their lives.  

Of course, if a student refuses to work, never be afraid to give them the grade they deserve.

 

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 4, 2012 at 12:15 AM (Answer #4)

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Just be glad that you have only one student to worry about. I have taught classes where groups of kids decide to take a grading period off, refusing to do classwork or homework; many spend their class time causing disciplinary problems, too. The end result is that I send notes home requiring parental signatures (many are faked by the students) and/or call parents to let them know their kids are in danger of failing. The responses are usually mixed, and many parents end up angry at the teacher when the "F" appears. Such is the teacher's life in the 21st century. 

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pacorz | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted May 4, 2012 at 12:33 AM (Answer #5)

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One thing you should ask yourself is what a passing grade in your class really means. Does it mean the student has gained the competencies that you set as goals at the beginning of the course, or at the start of each unit? Or does your grade reflect more social values such as cooperation and work ethic?

Grades really should reflect what the student has learned in your course. While it should be an overall goal of the school system to produce graduates with a work ethic and the ability to meet deadlines, that's not your job here. Does this student pass the tests? Has he gained the competencies that you want him to have?  If so, you may need to reconsider your grading approach.

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cfett | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted May 4, 2012 at 3:34 AM (Answer #6)

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My former principal used to say that if the student has the ABILITY to pass, the teacher should pass him or her. I beg to differ; the student also needs to put forth at least a minimal amount of WORK to pass, also. (Besides, how are we to know for sure if a student understands the material if he or she does not complete the work?) It seems that you have done more than enough in this situation, and as long as you cover yourself (as we teachers are trained to do) -- contact the parent(s)/guardian(s) and let it be known that you have offered opportunities for make-up work, even if for partial credit -- you have more than done your job. You can't -- and shouldn't -- practically do the work for the student. If you are this concerned about the student in the first place, you know you're doing everything possible to help him pass. If he doesn't want to pass, there isn't anything else you can do -- sometimes, a few will slip through the cracks, but it isn't your fault!
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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 4, 2012 at 3:51 PM (Answer #7)

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Ultimately, we have to balance fostering responsibility in students with the awareness that they are, after all, kids, and are largely unequipped to comprehend the consequences of their actions. I taught in a defunct mill town surrounded by a rural area, and there were absolutely no job opportunities there. I always tried to measure what was best for the student, and came to the realization that there was no hard and fast standard. One student might respond to failing by waking up and recognizing that their future was at stake and another might respond by dropping out and getting sucked in by the prison system. If students won't work, there have to be consequences, but the problem was always that different consequences motivated students in different ways. Contacting parents is always a good place to start, but most parents in the community I taught in didn't care about school any more than their kids did. 

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:39 PM (Answer #8)

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You're between a rock and a hard place, but it sounds like you've gone out of your way to attempt to accommodate this student's situation. The altering of the curriculum needs to work both ways, however - if the student continues to choose not to respond to the adjustments you've made, you have no alternative but to let the student deal with the consequences of that choice. Make sure you document everything you have attempted in case of pushback by parents or administrators who have been contacted by parents, but then know in your heart that you've done all you can. You're not being employed, particularly at that level, to spoon-feed the student.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 5, 2012 at 4:06 AM (Answer #9)

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There is usually a big difference between how middle schools or junior highs approach students and how high schools do.  It is a good idea to set clear expectations and follow through with them while still trying to find ways to reach students.  For one thing, students need someone to mentor them officially or unofficially.  If a student is struggling, try to see who can reach that student.

One thing I have found very helpful is to give students access to their current grades early and often.  I do this through online grade programs, or sometimes printouts.  My online grading program highlights areas where the students’ grades are affected.  For example, failing a particular test or not turning in a certain group of assignments can negatively affect a student’s grade, and the program shows them how.  For serious cases, I print it out and highlight missing assignments.  I have even gone so far as to print out copies of the assignments and hand thick packets to the students in serious trouble, with the grade sheet stapled to the top.  That works pretty well.

 

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just-s | Student , Grade 11 | Valedictorian

Posted May 11, 2012 at 12:11 PM (Answer #10)

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generally children ought to be responsible enough especially in higher grades like 9,10,11&12.

well the parents should also be playing a role in this issue by making sure that the child's work is done before they leave the next day for school. even if it means not checking up but just asking....but generally students of this age is bound to take the role of responsibility more serious than when they were younger....

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 17, 2012 at 1:26 AM (Answer #11)

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I so understand your concerns. I have taught kids from sixth grade up (except for sophomores) and I find that the level of apathy of students in general has increased dramatically since I started teaching in 1990. I appreciate your desire to grab this kid in some way; you have gone above and beyond to provide him with a personal advocate and instructor. You have tried to tailor your class work to fit his needs. And I cann't think of one more thing you should do that you have not done! That he is not encouraged at home or forced to do his work is indicative of the reason for his lack of concern for school work. In fact, I wonder if he is just not biding his time until he is old enough to be signed out of school. I expect he might believe his time is better spent working because he would see the value of a paycheck far beyond the value of knowledge or a high school diploma. I have struggled with these kinds of students, literally almost (and sometimes not just "almost") to do their homework. At a certain point I think we need to know that some kids cannot be saved. I know this seems so harsh, especially in that you obviously are "called" to teach—it's not just a job for you. But this young man has a choice. And he cannot at this time in his life appreciate what you know from experience. In fact, the only way he may ever appreciate it (if he ever does) is through the hard experience of getting out into the world and finding how hard that life is. THAT is harsh! It's much like parenting...as it has been with my children, sometimes I have to step back and let them try to fly. I hope they succeed, of course. But I know that I have done all I can with regard to specific concerns I may have (college, parenting their children, etc.), and I have learned sometimes I have to step away. My youngest reminds me of this every other day—with things I know I cannot control.

You cannot make this young man interested. You cannot make him forward-thinking. You cannot make him...

What you can do is show him respect, as you have done. Let him know you really care about him, as you have done. Let him know that you will continue to care no matter what. And then, if it were me, I'd kiss him up to God. The greatest lesson he may learn in life may not take place in the classroom. The greatest thing he may learn about is the capacity of one person to care for another—which will come from you. It's not giving up: I thought that for a long time. Its your survival so you can help other kids. I learned (and it was so hard!) that if I did not let go, it would destroy me. 

You're doing a great job. You care, and how many kids can say this, how many wish they could say this...and how many can only say it because of a teacher who really cares, like you. This is based upon my experiences, of course. I wish you the best!

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otny | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 19, 2012 at 3:55 AM (Answer #12)

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How Responsible Should High School Students Be?

I have taught only junior high classes for the past five years, and this year I was blessed to add a high school English 9 course.  I am struggling, however, with what to do with students who simply choose not to do the work.  I have tried everything I know to do, and there is one (an older student retaking the course due to previous loss of credit) who simply does not complete work if it has to be done outside of class.  I don't have this problem with my junior high kiddos, but if I did, I would have no problem with sitting them down in my room during their study hall and basically giving them no choice but to complete the assignments. I have talked with this student privately several times about completing work and have even offered to waive the late penalty for each assignment turned in, but there is still nothing turned in.  My problem is this:  Do I let this student fail, reasoning that this is high school and it's time to let logical consequences take effect, or do I pull this student in during his study hall (I have a class then) and sit him down to do the work while I'm there to make him?  We live in a rural community where coal mining and farming are the occupations of choice for those who aren't college-bound, and I know that he simply doesn't see why he needs to learn about Romeo and Juliet (or anything else that doesn't directly pertain to his future plans).  I have tried to bend a lot of the assignments to his interests (agriculture in the Elizabethan Era, for example, for research) but I still don't see any work.  I don't feel right about just letting him fail.  My own son is a lazy freshman, and when I see that he has missing work, I'm on his back, but this kiddo doesn't have that at home.  Is it right that he should fail because there is no one there to make him do it like I do my own?  I really need some input on this.  Thank you!

I might ask the student how not having a good work ethic is relevant to working in coal mine or any other kind of laborous work.  I might also ask him to figure out how much money he will lose if he needs to stay in school an extra year to graduate.  As a high school teacher, I've had several of these students and I don't think there's any one way to handle them but pulling them aside in a quiet hallway and talking to them "heart to heart" seems to put a crack in the wall of dissonance that they have built up around themselves. 

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drahmad1989 | Student , Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted May 23, 2012 at 6:41 PM (Answer #13)

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Students of this grade are of dreams world they like to do chill at all , humor is their life at all. they want to learn by their own desire . no one can force them to read or to learn . so you only set criteria and fail who did not fulfil this .

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