agenda for today: go over test

if you were in my math class this morning, you would have heard the following exchange:
good morning class. nice to see that 5 of you decided to show up to class today.

"miss, are we going to discuss the march that happened on saturday? i think it's important."

you know D, you know what i think is more important? the fact that every single one of you failed my test.

"but the situation with the immigrants is fucked up, miss!"

you know K, you know what i think is more fucked up? that you all SAY you are so concerned with immigrant rights and the future that they are being denied, but somehow, you guys can't manage to study for my math test; that you all are systematically denying yourselves what so many immigrants are being denied by others. that immigrants fight for so many things – things like education and health care – and yet you all squander the opportunites being given to you. that's what i think is fucked up.

so no, D, we are not going to discuss what happened. because as far as i am concerned, you all are talking the talk but not walking the walk: you all say you want equal access and equal opportunity for everyone, but when a teacher stands at the front of the classroom in order to provide it for you, you all decide that doing your homework is not a priorty; that studying for a test is not something you need to do. that's what's fucked up.

after this exchange i asked the kids which problems on the test they wanted me to go over. D, who suggested we talk about the immigrant issues, said, "i don't care about math" and proceeded to put his head down. K asked why i couldn't have given him help when he asked for it during the test. after explaining that he had 6 weeks to ask questions, and that a test is the time to show they are capable of independent thought and action, he said, "well fuck, i'm not going to give up my lunch or time after school to get tutoring. why can't studying at home be enough?" so i asked, "o? and how much time do you spend studying math at home?" he replied, "10 minutes." so i said, "assume you get home at 5 o'clock. when do you go to bed? at 10? so 5 hours, which is 300 minutes. 10 minutes is 3% of your time. a test is worth 30% of your grade. if you only dedicate 3% of your time to my class, your grade will reflect that: and it does. 30% of your time is equal to 90 minutes, or an hour and a half. if you spent that much time on my class, i can guarantee you your grade would not be sad amount it currently is." at that, K did not have anything to say. E asked to see a problem. after walking him through it, i noticed that E has problems not with the algebra, but with adding and subtracting poitive and negative numbers. i said, "E, you are always 100% sure that you know exactly what you are doing. but you keep screwing up when you have to add and subtract. it appears *that* is what you need to practice." after hemming and hawing about it, E said, "i was absent, that's why i didn't know. i can do it now." so i put another problem on the board. and said, "o? get to it then." he then proceeded to get the algebra right, but was unable to add -173 + 63. he said it was -236. when K pointed out his mistake, E got upset and said, "fuck this anyway. the questions on the test were hard and not like the ones on the homework." imagine the look on their faces when i told him that all the problems were taked straight from the homework assignments, and that they were running out of excuses.

K said, "Ms. Vasquez would have helped us during the test!" to which Ms. Vasquez replied, "then why didn't you pass my class last semester, K?" to which, again, K was struck silent.
it is worth pointing out that the kids who walked out, the good majority have no idea why they are walking out. to them it is a free day. so to all the organizers of the walk-out for immigrant rights, i say: fuck you. you are not making my job any easier. you are not organizing the kids. you are not educating or informing them. you are creating a photo opp: in the end, superficial and meaningless.

better yet, why not a school walk-in? how is losing a day of instruction beneficial to them? what about all the kids who have to miss school to help put food on their families' table? what about all the kids who are dropping out? during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, black folk all across the south walked into lunch counters and sat down. they were demanding equal access. equal opportunity.

get these kids to come in to class, not out of it. to sit down and listen, not stand up and yell. in the end, an education is more valuable than grandstanding. i'm sure their immigrant parents would appreciate that far more.


Avraham said...

That's my girl.

Anonymous said...

Tell it to 'em straight.
Kinda wish that your blog was also on a myspace account- for the kids, you know what I'm mean?

cathode ray said...

i see what you mean. maybe i'll start another myspace account for me as educator.

Hadj said...

As a math teacher at Dorsey (Crenshaw's sister/rival school) I think you're doing a great job. I'm really glad to see your comments on boingboing! Let the world hear because having these kids fail so much is absurd. We start so far behind with them that it's like we just started our car while the rest of the racers are on their last lap. (Bad analogy I know, but gimme a break, I just got home from the same job as you!) Anyway, good luck and keep up the good work.
Dorsey teacher

Anonymous said...

I teach at a small school in Oakland. A bunch of our kids walked out on Monday and a co-teacher had this reflection, which I share:

Mine: After initial misgivings about students walking out because they wanted to escape school more than because of thought out convictions about the policies being debated in congress.... I realized that there are few experiences that can motivate learning about politics and feeling capable of making social change more than participating in mass marches (especially if people haven't been to many)... and that feeling empowered to make social change as a part of a movement is a powerful force against the kind of isolation that is a cause for some much violence among youth.

Anonymous said...

Miss Cathode Ray,

You are a True American! I bloody freaking love teachers like you: those that put the verbal smack-down on wannabe-bad-ass students who love making up excuses and reasons why THEY are not the problem with the educational institutions, but rather (according to the students) the teachers and the system.

I thank you very much. You really, honest-to-God, have made my day (even though it's really late).


cindylu said...

In many ways I agree with what you wrote on boing boing and what you just wrote above. On Friday I attended a symposium at UCLA on Latinos and education. I'm a grad student in education and the numbers still surprise me. Only 46 of 100 students who start elementary school will graduate. If people really think this "sleeping giant" has awoken, it has to start somewhere else besides simply walking out of school or marching in downtown one Saturday.

Anonymous said...

it's refreshing to see an intelligent counter to all the political drama!