Thursday, April 24. Third period. Phone rings. I know the extension on the caller ID. It's the boss. She needs a favor. A big favor. And thus interventions began. That was the last time I saw my students, and I will not be returning to them until Tuesday, May 13.
As part of our Student Success Initiative (SSI), eighth grade students who fail the state reading and/or math tests are given two more chances. We start with ten days of interventions (pull-out classes) before the first retest. If students fail that exam, they attend summer school, taking the third test at the end of June.
I am currently working with 58 students: a mixture of kids from my own class and others; ESL, Sped, at-risk, and economically disadvantaged students; most of whom I know, a few of whom I do not. The majority of my student population is male, many of whom are considered the school trouble makers. We meet for 45 minutes a day, working on test-taking strategies and low scoring skills. This is in addition to continuing to write lessons and grade papers for my own class and the long-term sub class (for which we now have a certified teacher, and my life is a bit easier).
There have definitely been some challenges. For the first two days, I have dealt with a lot of "I don't need to be here. I only failed by one question." My response: "Well, that was by one question too many." The counselor has done a wonderful job intervening, and I have seen an improvement in most of these kids.
There has also been an extreme disregard for time. I can only count on two students in my last class to show up on time. I have boys strolling in up to five minutes late with absolutely no concern. It got so bad by the third day, that I called in our two assistant principals. Our head football coach, an assistant principal in training, happened to be nearby and also came in. By the fourth day, when there was no improvement, four boys were removed, and their mothers will now be sitting in class with them Monday.
It has not been all bad, though. The tardy class surprised me Friday. I left to run to the restroom, and by the time I got back, the bell was ringing, and only two students were present. I started muttering and headed for the phone. The second I picked it up, the kids all came running out of the storage closet (we are located in a temporary building).
In one of my classes, I have two of the rough-n-tough boys whom I know a bit better. We had issues earlier in the year, and they will give me attitude in the hallways every now and then, but no real big concerns. But I have never had them in class. By Thursday, they were both coming in and hugging me before class even started, telling me how much they are getting from these sessions together.
I was also fortunate enough to receive a co-teacher. Because there was a need for more students to receive interventions and not enough room in my sessions, another teacher was pulled from class. She has two intervention classes of her own and four with me. Although we have no more than ten students per group, it makes a huge difference. We are able to conduct more one-on-one needs.
So we have good and bad...and yes, there has been some ugly. One boy has come in with tales of his mother that made me offer to bring him home with me. Another is heartbroken because his best friend is dealing with a death in the family. Another shared goals of earning a GED and working at a grocery store for the rest of his life.
We have completed five days and have six to go. It has certainly been an adventure so far. I am giving them all I have to give, and I hope they are able to use it and pass this test the second time around.
Now, it's time to head to Super Saturday and work with a few of these kids today.