Yesterday I wrote about how confused I was with Sweet Child o' Mine and his inability to follow through and do the simplest things like completing classwork, and coming in to make up said incomplete work, and remembering for five minutes to walk back to the damn classroom and finish the freakin' work.
As I pondered, I had an epiphany. And maybe it's pretty minor as epiphanies go, and maybe it's something all of you already know....but it was new to me. Just a simple shift in thinking, and I feel like I understand a whole bunch of my students on a whole new level.
SCoM doesn't know how to be a student. He's years behind in it, and without intensive interventions, he may never catch up. Though he's in eighth grade, he's maybe a fifth grade level student.
I'm not talking academically, though he's behind there too because of this. I mean in knowing how to do homework. How to focus in class. How to ask for help when you don't understand something. How to remember when a teacher offers extra help. How to walk into the room at that time and sit down and get additional assistance. How to even know that you need additional assistance. How to know where your materials are. How to get to class on time. How to make choices about your studies. How to advocate for yourself when you feel a teacher has been unfair. Generally how to be a student.
It's linked to the responsibility issue I wrote about a while back, how I'd like to know what I should be able to expect kids to do at different grade levels from a responsibility perspective and not just academically. Because then if we did that, I'd be able to look at what SCoM can already do and what he's lacking and then I could say, okay, he needs to be retaught x, y, and z to get him closer to behaving the way a fourteen-year-old kid should behave in school.
I've been delighted this year in my move to eighth grade at how much more responsible the kids are; how much more likely they are to show up when they say they're going to, in particular. And of course they should be better at that than sixth graders since they're two years older. But just because you age two years chronologically doesn't mean you do the same in actual maturity, particularly if you don't have anyone at home supporting you in that process. Not all my kids have that.
We have to teach them how to do that. We have to teach them, over and over, explicitly, how to do these things. Why it matters.
We have to support them in their process of trying to improve, because if we don't, they won't. If they don't have help in getting better in these areas, they're not going to make the academic growth they should make either. And when a kid is reading at a fourth grade level in eighth grade, we don't shrug and say, "Well, he's old enough to know how - it's not my problem if he can't." Why would we do that for being a conscientious student?
I don't know what that looks like yet, not really, but I'm working on it. If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them; otherwise, I'll keep you posted.
(Image credit to bengrey)