My Students Are Visual Learners; Maybe Their Parents Are, Too

Image by James F Clay via Flickr

I started calling parents today.

Friday, as I finally gathered the energy to leave school about an hour after almost everyone else, I stopped in the office and copied down the names and numbers of the parents of the students in my 8th grade social studies class.

Friday was also the last day of the marking period and I wanted to talk to the parents before the next one starts on Monday.

Friday I apologized to the dozen or so students in that class who are eager and trying to learn.

I end up teaching each of them one-to-one for a couple of minutes each session. It’s the best I can do under the disruptive environment in the class.

Today I talked to as many of their parents I could reach and told them how hard their sons and daughters are trying under very difficult circumstances.

I was ready to be blamed for the class situation but only one parent even hinted at that. Most said they appreciated the call and what I was trying to do for their child.

I also called the parents of the disruptive students to enlist their help in changing the behaviors of their children in the new marking period.

I was not able to reach many; the numbers the school had for them were no longer in service. The few I reached were only surprised that I was calling over the weekend and not by the message I was delivering.

It seems that where almost none of the attentive students had told their parents about the class, all the parents of the other students seemed to know what was going on and that their child was not learning, mostly because of my inability to control the class.

They were willing to blame me right up until the moment I cited specific behaviors I saw yesterday, Most admitted they’d heard reports like mine about their child before, but not to the extent I alleged had occurred.

Parent-teacher conferences are two weeks away.

Historically, not many of the parents of 8th graders show up, but those who do will see a demonstration of our new SmartBoard.

I’ve put fresh batteries in my Flip video recorders and I’ll be documenting visually and audibly what goes on in the classroom every day starting Monday.

If things go the way I hope, I’ll be showing a documentary about my teaching and student learning.

If things continue to go the way they’ve been going, every parent will know who and how.

I’ll leave it to their children to explain the why.

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11 Responses to My Students Are Visual Learners; Maybe Their Parents Are, Too

  1. Wow, what a great idea to video tape the class! We have had challenges convincing the principal certain situations are happening with our son during lunch. It never occurred to me to video tape.

    As a mom of a special ed kid, I really appreciate your tremendous efforts to make a difference. Wonderful special ed teachers are truly hard to find!

  2. I’ve thought of doing this. Let me know how it goes.

  3. Bev DeVore says:

    Thank you for sharing. I learn so much from y’all! My gen ed alg 1 class has horrible focusing habits. Videotaping might just be the trick!

  4. Michael J says:

    Congratulations on your courage in video taping. In my experience the last thing a teacher wants to share is themselves working in a dysfunctional class.

  5. Michael J says:

    Sorry, I hit the post button by accident. Just wanted to add 2 cents. Consider a written contract with the parents of the disruptive kids if and when they show up.

    The problem is that the parents know their kids act like jerks. No doubt they’ve been hearing it for years. What they probably need is a clear sense of what to do about it.

    Consider a piece of paper that says, if jr misses three assignments he will repeat this class. Then give them an assignment every day. They can do it in class or at home, but if it’s not handed in the next day, strike one.

    I think the content of the assignment is not as important as the complete clarity of did you hand it in or did you not hand it in.

    Good luck and thank you for taking the time to share your experience so clearly.

    • Deven Black says:

      Unfortunately, I do not have the option of making the students repeat the class and the students know it. I actually have very few options when it comes to discipline other than a phone call home. When one student is a problem I can have him/her removed from the room, but I can’t do that if a dozen kids are acting up.

      Part of the problem is that three of the four times I see this class it is immediately after their lunch period. On Wednesdays, when I see them first period, the class goes much, much better.

      I am going to try a different strategy about how they enter the room. There is pressure to clear the halls ASAP, so I stand by the door and let the students into the class as they arrive. Starting Monday I am going to have them line-up outside the room and hold them there until they are quiet and calm. Only then will I let them into the room.

      I hate treating 13 & 14 year olds like little children, but if that is what they need…

  6. Michael J says:

    “Unfortunately, I do not have the option of making the students repeat the class and the students know it.”

    That sucks. 13 & 14 year old boys are playing power games. The power of the grade is irrelevent. The threat of “staying after school” is a joke cause they’ll play hooky. Anyone yelling at them is just another chance for them to play the power game.

    I think the only thing left is mom for disincentives.

    Would it be possible to say,”if you do X,y,z you will Pass this class” The jerks want to play games. Maybe a way to go is to give them clear rules for winning?

  7. Michael J says:

    Just another thought —

    Would it be possible to set up a process that goes “If you don’t want to be here, you can go sit in x.” No consequences other than getting them out of the room. No calls home. No report. Just get out if you don’t want to learn.

    My thinking is that the kids love the game of power fighting, especially when there are no real consequences they care about.

    If you take away their ability to impress the girls and themselves by putting them on the bench, maybe that will get their attention.

  8. roselle says:

    You have to make the consequence. Set up a ‘reward’ (field trip, movie pass, whatever) and assign points for players. If the guys won’t work as a group, make the reward depend on the whole group’s behavior: if the class accumulates 3,000 points, then the class goes for pizza etc.
    At the end of the day, only one person’s going to be left standing in your classroom…it’s gotta be you!

    • Deven Black says:

      Am I the only one who thinks that when we have to coerce students to behave, to do the work, to learn, it is a sign of something terribly wrong about what we are teaching or how we are teaching it?

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