On Reaching the Kiddos

I’m a bit late to #MTBoS12Days, led by Druin and Pam Wilson. The goal is to post 12 times over break,  possibly in a response to a series of prompts. We’ll see if I make it; we go back on Monday.

Prompt: What are your strategies to reach “that kid”?

First, I gather all the information I can on my students. I have my advisory fill out forms about themselves. I look at the scant information the District sends us (all our kiddos* are recent immigrants, so, to be fair, the District doesn’t have a lot of information to send us). I observe them in class. Looping, or teaching many of the same kiddos 2 years in a row, is a huge help. Kiddos who I taught the year before help establish norms and smooth over rough patches (I distinctly remember a kiddo my first year of teaching tell another newer, more rebellious student “You need to do what he says!”).

I listen to what kiddos say and do in class. Even if they aren’t 100% into the math, they talk with friends. I hear about everything from hobbies and social media usage to relatively confidentialish stuff like immigration status.  Sometimes this gives me an in to connect with them or gives me an insight into why they might not be participating as much or how I can better frame things to them. (Side note: I speak Spanish, so I can eavesdrop on about 2/3 of our kiddos. At least one student has reacted to this with some mortification: “%$!& I’d forgotten you speak Spanish!”)

If that doesn’t work, I ask other people at school. I work on a(n amazing) team of teachers who teach the same students, plus an advisory (also consisting of our kiddos). Generally, one of these teachers will have suggestions or insights and we’re lucky to have time built into our weekly team meetings to talk about this. Our (amazing) paraprofessionals are also a great resource as they see our kiddos in various settings at various times of day and they often connect with kiddos in ways that don’t include yelling at them to get seated and take out papers (granted, this isn’t the main way I intend to interact with kiddos, but generally the ones I don’t have great connections with are the ones who I end up yelling at, so). Our (amazing) Wellness Center staff is key here, too. On more than 1 occasion (twice), I’ve had meetings with the Wellness Coordinator where she has basically asked me what my goals are, then facilitated a meeting between a student and me to get us both where we want to go. (Side note: This was also a great way to show a new student that I anticipated struggles with that I was invested in his time and his learning. It helped a ton that our Wellness Coordinator is the person he trusts most at school).

Something that I don’t consider particularly special, but has proven to be helpful is calling home. More often than not, families want to know what’s happening and want to get involved. It’s both surprising (and sometimes heartbreaking) the number of times families will echo the concerns of our teaching team (because so many of our kiddos are recently immigrated and/or reunifying with their guardians for the first time in ages, this situation can be especially complicated). If the guardian doesn’t respond (or responds, but there’s no noticeable follow-up), that’s at least another data point for the puzzle. Side note: Teachers frequently express surprise at how ready I am to call home. I…don’t really have an answer here, other than to say that guardians tend to be the experts here. And if I had a child who was not doing well and their teacher didn’t call me, I’d be a bit peeved, too.

Sometimes, I’ll ask another student (always a trusted student, generally one of my advisees who (mostly) trusts me) what to do. Something along the lines of “I’m trying to get better at helping Gordon** with mathematics. But I’m not having any luck. He likes working with you. What do you suggest?” I’d approach this one with caution, since there’s a ton of status and feelings involved here. I’ll sometimes ask the student in question a similar question, though I need to be careful about framing (this tends to work better with kiddos I’ve taught for 2 years, but are going through a rough patch).

2 quick points: #1: This was one of the interview questions I had to answer for my current job. I didn’t remember at first (I was probably in a state of panic), but one of my interviewers reminded me of it after the fact.

#2: My mom made a comment to me over break that one of my cousin’s kiddos was in a class with lots of “bad kids”. This is a fascinating comment to me and we had a long talk afterwards about how, if adults can identify kids as “bad kids”, how must those students feel about themselves? Adults are really good at subliminally (or not subliminally) showing what they’re thinking and kiddos are really good at reading it. And if a kiddo doesn’t feel like they’re accepted or have status in the class, why should they make an effort to belong in a system that has already, pretty clearly, showed them where they think they belong? So I guess my point, and I’m seeing it a bit this year with kiddos that I struggle to connect to, is that kiddos can be really sensitive to being “that kid”, no matter how much they try not to show it.

*Our principal says “kiddo”, so I say “kiddo”. Force of habit.

**not their actual name. Or an actual kiddo that I have in mind, really.

Advertisements

Good Enough for Now: The Field Trip

Image

You might say that it’s bananas to execute a field trip during a 5-week summer school program and you might be right.

We do it anyway.

Field trip chaperoning means not really having enough time to take photos, so here’s a picture of the handout that we had kiddos do on the walk over to the park. Shout out to this kiddo who painstakingly circled all the storm drains on the way over (the field trip had an environmental focus. Kind of.)2017-07-09 20.16.16Other fun quotes and memories:

“MISTER, asì nacì, asì voy a morir.“-one of my advisees, when I caught him swearing (again). Translated: “MISTER, I was born this way, I will die this way.”

I also spent about 10 minutes trying to teach one of our students that it’s impolite to ask teachers (especially female teachers) how old they are. Didn’t get far with that one. Also, guesses of my age, by students: 25, 45, 30, 37, 32, 35. Number sense is getting better, but not really.

Kiddo, umprompted: “Mister, you speak French?”

Me (What?): “Um. No.”

Same kiddo: “That’s what math is like for me! No like math.”

Me: “Oh. Um. Je parle Francais.” (Kiddo doesn’t buy it)

As happens with our kiddos, there is soccer. There are several kiddos sporting honest-to-God soccer jerseys and fancy sweats that are probably out of my price range (and in all fairness, these kiddos probably play on several, super intense teams that are deserving of jerseys and more). When one team slaughters the other, we jokingly suggest that we shuffle players so that they have the same number of “official jerseys” on each side (the kiddos say no). The one female player eventually stalks off, amidst a string of curses. Comments about caballeros (translation: gentlemen) fall on deaf ears.

I play soccer with a few of the kiddos afterwards. I barely made the 8th grade team in middle school. I have not progressed much beyond there (but that’s good enough for now).

What do you observe? What do you wonder?

Where did that paper go?

Image

Handing back papers so the kiddos can finish ones they haven’t finished and can get some feedback on the papers I have gotten around to grading (spoiler alert: not as many as I’d hoped).

I collect the papers at the end of the period so that I can go home and grade them. Many kiddos don’t have all the papers to turn in. I ask them to check backpacks and notebooks. Sometimes they get lost.

One kiddo in particular insists that he never got his papers back.

I check his notebook 5 minutes after class ends.2017-07-05 17.35.12

What do you observe? What do you wonder?

“Mister, I’m Shy”

Image

We work in leveled groups on solving bags and coins problems with tiles (moving towards solving equations with fewer scaff0lds) but my favorite part of the day is when one of the kiddos comes for help at lunch. He sees that there are 11th and 12th grade girls in the room and refuses to come in.

“Why?” I ask (probably while multitasking).

“Mister, I’m shy,” he says, looking at the girls again. (He will repeat this phrase when I ask him why he doesn’t practice English with his uncle. It’s adorable.)

And that’s how we end up sitting on the floor outside my room, solving equations with algebra tiles.

(He is not shy, but I will OK, whatever in the name of student voice.)

2017-01-09-12-48-25-1