Monday, July 02, 2007

The Real World

I was asked some very thoughtful and thought-provoking questions by a student today. I don't often get to interact with students one on one anymore - something I miss greatly. For several reasons, I was able to meet today with a student who was asking for help in preparing to retake her Global Studies Regents exam in August.

She failed the exam by one point.

Why is this important? First - she came to school last week, asked for a copy of her exam and feedback on what she could do better. Second - when I met with her today to review the test and prep for what she could do in August, she had reviewed that test. And reviewed it very carefully. She knew what she didn't know. And she knew, in terms of her writing, what she didn't do. What she didn't know was how to "fix it" for August.

And she did all this - because of one point.

As we talked, it became obvious that she knew where she had failed, but also how her teachers had failed her. As we talked about how she took the exam and why she chose not to use a graphic organizer or why she changed correct answers on her multiple choice sheet, she was frustrated that no one had taught her "how" - they just expected her to "do." I shared some vocabulary strategies that she could use and we started by having her highlight all the words in the test that she could not talk to me about with confidence. There weren't a great number of them - remember, she missed passing by one point - but there were enough.

We then looked at her writing. She knew she wandered, she knew it wasn't well organized, and she knew she probably didn't answer the question. But she knew she had better include the appropriate number of document references. I showed her how to organize her writing by taking apart the prompt and then use two column notes a la Step Up to Writing to help guide her. Like me, she's not a big fan of the mind map so this plan seemed to make more sense to her. We talked about her writing the longer DBQ essay first, then moving to the Thematic essay - even though they are not in that order in the test booklet.

And we mapped out a plan for her to tackle all of this before the next exam. No more than 20 minutes per night, learn what you don't know, practice organzing writing. Remember that she knows a lot - she only needed one point.

She wants to be a nurse - and starts some CTE courses next year. She asked why I don't teach anymore - I told her I do, I just work with teachers. She asked why...I told her I thought that I could impact more kids this way. She asked me when I was going to start in her district. She made one powerful point!!

You see - I do work in her district. I have for the past four years. Yet somehow - it hadn't filtered down to her yet. All the time looking at data, meeting with teachers, talking about practice, scoring assessments, leading inservice dates on reading and writing - none of it made a difference on the day in June that she took that assessment. One point.

I wonder how she would have done if she had been taught the vocab strategies or writing organizer before the test. I wonder what difference it will make when she takes the test again in August. I wonder what I need to do diferently next year so that there are fewer kids like her - missing things by one point. Missing things by five points. Just plain missing things.

She left this afternoon - off to a holiday camping trip with a folder full of papers and a 20 pound Global Studies book in hand. Hopefully - she'll follow the plan and contact me if it isn't working. But in the meantime - she made me think, and think hard, about the role I play. And she made one big point.

1 comment:

Mrs. Kondrick said...


You write so well. I was moved by this. It makes you really realize that all the little things we do can truly make a difference. If we bring what we have learned into the classroom what a difference it will make. I think sometimes we think "Wow thats a great idea" and then put it in a pile for some day. We need to make sure we use it right away, or it will get put in that "someday" pile.