Author Topic: Teacher situation (long) -- UPDATES #26, #56, #141 (mini), #151, #165  (Read 33934 times)

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Coley

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I have been debating about posting on this situation for about a week. It has gotten to the point that I could use some insight from others. I need help to be sure I'm addressing this properly. Apologies in advance because this is going to be rather long, but I think the detail is important.

BG:

DS is in 6th grade, which is middle school. He is an A science student. He loves science and is excited to learn everything about it. For years, he has talked about wanting to work in a science or math related field.

The middle schools here have dedicated teachers assigned to science. They have just started a new science curriculum. It's called a "layered" curriculum -- there are C, B, and A layers of assignments. In a nutshell, all the kids are expected to do the work in the C layer. That is the minimum. If the kids have time (and this means spending time outside of class), they may do B layer and A layer work. The work becomes more complex in the B and A layers. A layer work is the most challenging. The kids cannot start any B or A layer work until they have completed all the work in the previous layer.

10/1/12
The teacher initiates the first science unit with layered assignments. Her message to the parents is to "check the student's point sheet to see what they are working on." I was doing that. I could see what DS had been working on. He was earning points for assignments.

10/10/12
The teacher sends an e-mail to the parents letting us know that the kids are behind in their work. She states that if they expect to earn As or Bs, then they have to do the A- and B-layer work. This was the first time we'd been told explicitly that the layers corresponded with letter grades. The deadline for the work at that time was 10/17/12. If we expected that our kids should earn Bs or As, then we should have them come in early before school (7 a.m.) on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays or they should use their study hall time to get the work done. I looked at DS's point sheet again that day. In looking at it, I discovered that there was a calendar on the back of the point sheet with an end date of 10/17/12. I noticed that two class periods were crossed off. I asked DS why they were crossed off. He said the teacher didn't let them work on their projects those days and showed videos instead. Given his work rate at that point, he was on track to earn a C given the number of days remaining before the deadline. I worked with him to create a plan to get all the work done before the deadline.

10/12/12
The teacher posts a note on the school's homework website stating that the deadline for the projects was extended to 10/24/12. No explanation was provided.

10/15/12
DS worked hard over the preceding weekend and the afternoons the previous week to complete his remaining C-layer work. DS came home from school and informed me that the reason for the 10/24 extension was that the teacher decided to go on a three-day, off-site field trip with the 7th graders. She doesn't presently teach 7th grade. There was no further communication from the teacher about the status of the projects or how her absence would affect them.

10/16/12
DS completed the B-layer work. He asked the teacher after school about starting the A-layer work. He said she told him to wait until the weekend when she would post the assignments on the class website. DS says she stated she would post it "by Saturday." The teacher left for her field trip on 10/17/12.

10/17-10/19/12
DS engages in busy work assigned by the substitute teacher. He cannot proceed with his projects.

10/20/12
I e-mailed the teacher to make sure that DS understood her direction about him waiting until the weekend to get the instructions from the website. I didn't want him to let the whole weekend go by unnecessarily because the final deadline for the work was 10/24/12. The teacher replied and stated that she would have the instructions posted sometime over the weekend (not "by Saturday," as DS stated). She also said she had left work in the room for the kids to do while she was gone. She did not specify the type of work or how it related to these projects. I asked her if the work in the classroom included the A-layer work. She replied and said that she specifically remembered DS approaching her after class (not after school as DS reported) and that she told him there would be work in the room and that she would post the A-layer work sometimes this weekend. I replied again and said that DS was under the impression that he couldn't do any A-layer work while she was gone and needed to wait through the weekend until it was posted online. I asked again if A-layer work had been available in the classroom during her absence. She did not reply.

DS checked his class website all day on 10/20 to see if she posted the A-layer work. She didn't.

10/21/12
The teacher posted the instructions for the A-layer work at 4 a.m. I'm not kidding. I happened to be awake at 5 a.m. (insomnia), so I logged on and saw it. One assignment could be done at home. The other had to be done at school.

We kept DS home from church and his youth group so he could get the one assignment done at home. We felt that this would give him more time to focus on the assignment that had to be done at school by that 10/24 deadline. He worked all day on the assignment that could be done at home. It was extensive and required PowerPoint slides and a typed paper.

The assignment that has to be done at school requires the kids to conduct three tests for an experiment. The experiment requires a microscope and all the associated paraphernalia. Then the kids have to write a research paper about their hypothesis, how they conducted the experiment, and their findings.

10/21/12 (evening)
The teacher posts a note on the website stating that she has the stomach flu and won't be at school in the morning. She states that the kids should not come early if they were planning to work before school. She says she will consider changing the deadline again. The note also says, "I hope this is a quick bug for many reasons I won't share but mostly because I am anxious to get back." Reasons she won't share? 

10/22 and 10/23/12
Teacher is out sick. Although DS has the A-layer assignments in hand, he still can't do any work at school on his last assignment because the microscopes are locked up when the teacher isn't there. DS tried to check the assignment folders to see if there were any examples of experiments or any other information that he might need to carry out his experiment; however, the assignment folders had been removed from the bin where they'd been kept. There was more busy work with the substitute. The teacher posts a note on the website stating that the deadline will be moved to "no earlier than 10/29."

10/24/12
Teacher returns to the classroom. No notice is given to parents, so no kids can work before school. During class, DS asks the teacher if he can work on his experiment. Teacher refuses because she says other kids are still finishing the C-layer work, so he has to wait for them to finish because there aren't enough microscopes. She tells him to try again the next day. According to DS, the new deadline for all the work is 10/31; however, parents have not been notified of this via e-mail or website. The website still says "no earlier than 10/29."

10/25/12
During class, DS found a free microscope and set up his entire experiment. He asked the teacher for salt, which he needed to carry out the experiment. She refused, stating that the room was too chaotic and there were too many kids trying to work. She told him he needs to come in early tomorrow before school to get it done. Still no announcement to parents about the new deadline. Website still says "no earlier than 10/29."

Note: Although her 10/10 e-mail states that parents will see grades for each layer of assignments, no grades have been posted on the class website since 9/27.

End BG.

Now you're up to speed. Tomorrow morning, I have to take DS to school at 7 a.m. so he can complete his A-layer experiment. I have lost my patience with this situation. I believe I have already attempted to address concerns about these projects directly with the teacher, so I don't plan on e-mailing her about it again. My opinion is that she owes me a response on the previous e-mail, which she ignored. I have no confidence that she will reply to further e-mail from me. (I should mention that I e-mailed her once earlier in the quarter about a grade that DS was missing. It took her four days to reply.)

I also can't feel confident that the deadline is now 10/31. I believe we are wiser to operate under the assumption that it is 10/29 because that is what is still posted on the website. If DS is able to get his experiments done tomorrow, he will be able to write the paper over the weekend and turn it in on Monday to meet the possible 10/29 deadline.

Right now, my plan is to walk with DS to the science classroom tomorrow morning so that I can be sure that she is there and that he can do the experiments. In my opinion, if she told him to come in early tomorrow, then she needs to be there and she should allow him to do the work. If that does not happen, my plan is to head to the school office to speak with the principal.

I am troubled by the poor communication from the teacher. I also am troubled that the teacher has refused twice to allow DS to continue his work during class time. I'm speculating here, but it appears that the schools may be under some mandate to ensure that all the kids are performing at least at the C level (a minimum standard), which could be why she has been pushing DS away from the equipment. This allows the kids who are still doing C-layer work to meet their minimum. If that is true, then I worry about the message that sends to the kids who have been working at the higher levels. Regardless of the extra time outside of class that they're spending on projects, they wind up stymied in the end because other kids who haven't been putting in the extra time are taking up the equipment.

I also see bigger-picture issues. A reality is that some kids don't have the resources to come in early before school starts. They ride the bus. Their parents may not be able to drive them to school at 7 a.m. Some kids may need to eat breakfast before school in the cafeteria. Some kids may not have the resources to do this work at home, like a computer with internet access and a word processor. DS had minimal experience with PowerPoint before this weekend. Some kids may not have parents with the skills to walk them through setting up a PowerPoint slide or finding graphics online. What happens to those kids? Are they relegated to getting Cs in science because they don't have the personal resources to do more? Is that equal opportunity in learning? And then we have the issue of overall equipment availability. If there are only four microscopes in the classroom, it seems pretty obvious that there would be conflicts regardless of which layer of work the kids are working on.

What, if anything, should I say to the teacher if she is in fact in the classroom tomorrow morning? I plan to stay only long enough to ensure that DS is allowed to work.

If you would continue to attempt discussion with the teacher, what would you say?

If you would bypass the teacher and go to the principal, what would you say?

Should these issues be addressed with the principal regardless of whether DS is allowed to do his experiments in the morning?

Please be honest: Am I hovering like a helicopter or do my concerns make sense?

Thank you for reading all of this.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2012, 04:52:05 PM by Coley »

Deetee

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Re: Teacher situation (long)
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2012, 10:05:30 PM »
Ugh. There are so many things wrong with this that I don't know where to start.
First, you are not a helicopter parent ( I do think you are more involved than appropriate but there doesn't seem to be another option)

First the grading scheme and deadlines should have clear and set from the beginning of class.

Second you should not need to do hours of extra work to get A and B. That is so unfair to the kids without the outside resources it is not even funny.

Go to the principal.  This is unreasonable, disorganized and unfair.

AngelicGamer

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Re: Teacher situation (long)
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2012, 10:16:39 PM »
OP - you are not a helicopter parent in any sense of the word.  You are making sure that your DS can do the best that he can do. 

I agree that this C, B, A level thing doesn't seem to be working.  It seems odd to me.  However, I'm used to classes in middle school where C, B, and A levels are all separated.  I understand that some schools cannot do this, but if you can't, then the teacher needs to be able to manage her classroom enough to make sure that the kids who want to do the B and A level work can do it.

Also, if there aren't enough 'scopes for doing level A (and/or B) work, my plan as a teacher (so hypothetical) would be to put that student who is ahead of his peers to help out as an assistant.  I would have a quick quiz ready (10 to 15 questions) on the lab of the day for the C (and/or B) levels.  You get a 85 or higher and you can be a helper (I'm not sure what I would do if they didn't pass that bar).  It would take five to ten minutes at the start of class while I was getting the C levels ready.  It would translate into extra credit to be used at their discretion or mine - as in, if they were a few points away from that A and had the extra credit, they'd get the A. 

OP, for your plan, I like it.  I do think that I would go with Deetee on one thing.  Even if the teacher is there for your DS to do his work, I would go to the principal.  I would have emails printed out and maybe even screenshots if you have them.  As much as they need to be graded on the C level stuff to get funding, the B and A levels make them look good.  I have never known a school - middle or high school - that didn't want to look good.  It means more monies for more things.  :)




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MyFamily

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Re: Teacher situation (long)
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2012, 10:19:21 PM »
So, basically, a kid can't get higher than a C in this class unless they come to extra classes?  I don't understand this, and honestly, this seems very wrong.  Combined with her lack of communication, I think you are correct to attempt a face-to-face discussion with her and if that doesn't work speak with the principal. 


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Acadianna

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Re: Teacher situation (long)
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2012, 10:22:14 PM »
Ugh. There are so many things wrong with this that I don't know where to start.
First, you are not a helicopter parent ( I do think you are more involved than appropriate but there doesn't seem to be another option)

First the grading scheme and deadlines should have clear and set from the beginning of class.

Second you should not need to do hours of extra work to get A and B. That is so unfair to the kids without the outside resources it is not even funny.

Go to the principal.  This is unreasonable, disorganized and unfair.

The above says it for me.  It sounds like your son has made all effort possible to complete the B and A layers, but has been discouraged every step of the way.  His frustration and yours are completely reasonable.

MrsCrazyPete

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Re: Teacher situation (long)
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2012, 10:29:38 PM »
POD to all of the above. I would make sure the teacher is there, and then make an appointment to speak with the principal. I would outline everything exactly as you just told us. Wow, what a headache! Is she TRYING to make the kids want to learn less?!
Sell crazy somewhere else, we're all stocked up here.

CharlieBraun

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Re: Teacher situation (long)
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2012, 10:30:11 PM »
Wow.

You are SO not a helicopter parent.  As the wife, daughter, sister times two of teachers, I can assure you...you are not.

The chronology you laid out is damning.  Not to your son, but to his teacher.  I usually will defend any teacher, any time, but this is not a situation in which the teacher's behaviour is defensible.

I strongly suggest that you copy and paste your chronology into a Word document and include copies of your emails  - all in print form and also in PDF.  Email the principal and ask for a personal meeting with him/her to discuss performance standards for the school and specifically for the grade level of your son.  Bring that with you.

I applaud your efforts to keep your son's attentions focused on the levels of work due and your dedication to providing the platform for his success.  I especially applaud that you are teaching him that his work is what matters and that you encourage him and direct him on time management to complete those.  (unspoken subtext: you aren't doing the work for him or whining down at the school about how unfair things are.)

This teacher is so unprofessional that it borders professional Darwinism. 

Please make an appointment with the principal, show up with the documentation, and ask how the school intends to rectify the lack of attention on the part of the teacher to her/his students, and in particular her/his active discouragement of achievement among her student body.

Many warm hugs. 
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NyaChan

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Re: Teacher situation (long)
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2012, 10:31:39 PM »
Ugh. There are so many things wrong with this that I don't know where to start.
First, you are not a helicopter parent ( I do think you are more involved than appropriate but there doesn't seem to be another option)

First the grading scheme and deadlines should have clear and set from the beginning of class.

Second you should not need to do hours of extra work to get A and B. That is so unfair to the kids without the outside resources it is not even funny.

Go to the principal.  This is unreasonable, disorganized and unfair.

The above says it for me.  It sounds like your son has made all effort possible to complete the B and A layers, but has been discouraged every step of the way.  His frustration and yours are completely reasonable.

I'm in agreement.  Take in the history that you just posted her in a more concise form so that the principal can see what has happened. 

Sharnita

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Re: Teacher situation (long)
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2012, 10:34:51 PM »
Some of what you are concerned about is completely reasonable, a few points seem nitpicky.  I would drop the nitpicky points so that you can get respectful attention paid to the many valid points.

1)  It should not take that much extra effort and that many resources outside of school to get a grade above a C, especially in the 6th grade
2) If those are the standards for grading they should have been made clear from the start.
3) There should be options for kids who can't come early or stay late because of bussing.

Now the thing about her "choosing to go on the field trip" - I wouldn't mention that at all.  It doesn't really matter that she doesn't teach 7th grade.  Maybe she is the teacher who goes to the effort to arrange trips and organize so she goes.  Maybe she has connections at the place they are visiting.  Maybe her area of expertise ties in to the place they are visiting. Maybe the 7th grade teacher wanted to stay home for some private reason.  There are lots of valid reasons for her to be on that trip.  I also wouldn't bring up the thing about the stomach bug.  When she said she wanted it to be short for reasons she won't go into, I assume she means she is suffering but went go into detail about the icky symptoms.  I think you are over thinking that one.

Coley

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Re: Teacher situation (long)
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2012, 10:35:02 PM »
Thanks so much for all the replies so far. I'm grateful that you've read this HUGE post.

I have been so concerned about helicoptering. Normally, I'd want DS to work this out on his own, but this is beyond him. Now that we have experienced the amount of planning that is required to complete all of this work, I hope we have better idea of what we can anticipate with other science units this year. DS did drop the ball initially in planning his C-level work this time, so we'll expect him to improve on that for next time. He worked very hard to get himself positioned to earn an A this time, and we think he was lucky that the deadline was extended.

Yes, a kid can't earn better than a C without spending considerable time outside of class. Class time will only allow them to complete the C-level work. If the kids want a better grade, then the teacher advised that they should plan to do C-level work outside class to give themselves the time needed to do the B- and A-level work.

Coley

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Re: Teacher situation (long)
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2012, 10:40:27 PM »
Some of what you are concerned about is completely reasonable, a few points seem nitpicky.  I would drop the nitpicky points so that you can get respectful attention paid to the many valid points.

1)  It should not take that much extra effort and that many resources outside of school to get a grade above a C, especially in the 6th grade
2) If those are the standards for grading they should have been made clear from the start.
3) There should be options for kids who can't come early or stay late because of bussing.

Now the thing about her "choosing to go on the field trip" - I wouldn't mention that at all.  It doesn't really matter that she doesn't teach 7th grade.  Maybe she is the teacher who goes to the effort to arrange trips and organize so she goes.  Maybe she has connections at the place they are visiting.  Maybe her area of expertise ties in to the place they are visiting. Maybe the 7th grade teacher wanted to stay home for some private reason.  There are lots of valid reasons for her to be on that trip.  I also wouldn't bring up the thing about the stomach bug.  When she said she wanted it to be short for reasons she won't go into, I assume she means she is suffering but went go into detail about the icky symptoms.  I think you are over thinking that one.

Thanks. Yes, I agree about the field trip. It might appear to be a choice on her part because it came up so suddenly after her 10/10 e-mail. It just feels off to me given the timing, so that's my intuition talking. It's not something I'd express an opinion about in a meeting other than to say the absence appeared to create a disruption in the workflow. I also completely agree about the stomach flu. It is entirely possible that she was referring to her symptoms and nothing else.

mmswm

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Re: Teacher situation (long)
« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2012, 10:42:56 PM »
Oh, boy.  There are so many things wrong here. Like a PP, I don't even know where to begin. The whole time I was reading that I kept thinking that I'd love to post the background on my favorite teachers' discussion board and get their takes on the whole thing.

Here's a quick overview of what I see as the primary problems:

Grades should reflect content mastery. Mastery of the state standards is what the grade should depend on.  The C level work should be reflecting the state standards.  As such, a student who has shown mastery of the C level work should be getting an A in the class.  Everything else is extra. 

The teacher is disorganized.  Granted, this whole system seems unreasonably complicated, but she should still be organized enough to communicate effectively with parents.

Lack of supplies.  This, of course, is not the teacher's fault, but it's still her job to design the lessons and assignments around the supplies she has.

Legal issues surrounding time outside of class.  Not only is it unfair to require students come in early or stay late, but most districts I know of interpret educational law as being illegal to punish a student for lacking required resources outside of class.  In other words, if, as a teacher, I assign a project that requires internet access, I must provide appropriate time in class, or I can't assign the project.  I also cannot require a student to be at school outside of class time, and hinge his or her grade on that time.

Some people lift weights.  I lift measures.  It's a far more esoteric workout. - (Quoted from a personal friend)

Coley

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Re: Teacher situation (long)
« Reply #12 on: October 25, 2012, 11:15:51 PM »
Oh, boy.  There are so many things wrong here. Like a PP, I don't even know where to begin. The whole time I was reading that I kept thinking that I'd love to post the background on my favorite teachers' discussion board and get their takes on the whole thing.

Here's a quick overview of what I see as the primary problems:

Grades should reflect content mastery. Mastery of the state standards is what the grade should depend on.  The C level work should be reflecting the state standards.  As such, a student who has shown mastery of the C level work should be getting an A in the class.  Everything else is extra.  This is one part of this scenario that has surprised me. The definition of "mastery" seems to be unclear. If "mastery" is defined as C-level, then what do the A- and B-levels represent?

The teacher is disorganized.  Granted, this whole system seems unreasonably complicated, but she should still be organized enough to communicate effectively with parents.

Lack of supplies.  This, of course, is not the teacher's fault, but it's still her job to design the lessons and assignments around the supplies she has. I wholeheartedly agree. The teacher isn't responsible for the quantity of equipment she is assigned, but she should plan around it. I wonder if the outside work is her way of planning around it.

Legal issues surrounding time outside of class.  Not only is it unfair to require students come in early or stay late, but most districts I know of interpret educational law as being illegal to punish a student for lacking required resources outside of class.  In other words, if, as a teacher, I assign a project that requires internet access, I must provide appropriate time in class, or I can't assign the project.  I also cannot require a student to be at school outside of class time, and hinge his or her grade on that time. This is what really concerns me in the bigger picture. If this were a college course and it were clearly outlined in the syllabus at the outset that students must have certain personal resources to earn an A, then I might feel differently about this. This is a 6th grade science class in a public school. Kids don't have a choice about taking this class. It seems to me that students should have equal access to the resources needed to earn an A. We will do what's needed to ensure DS has that opportunity, but other parents may not have that flexibility. I don't know whether this is a district-wide curriculum, the school's curriculum, or the teacher's curriculum. My best guess is that it's district-wide. If it is district-wide, then I wonder how much latitude teachers have to adapt it for their classrooms.

Sharnita

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Re: Teacher situation (long)
« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2012, 11:21:03 PM »
That is a good question and districts can be a bit bipolar about what they ask of teachers.  I knew a teacher who was scolded for expecting kids to do stuff on the internet because his expectation that they either use the library or school resources was unfair, then they turned around and encouraged teachers to assign kids to do assignments using cell phones based on the assumption that "they all have cell phones".

johelenc1

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Re: Teacher situation (long)
« Reply #14 on: October 25, 2012, 11:51:18 PM »
All I have to say it that is an absurd amount of work for a 6th grader to do to get an A.   ABSURD.   A child shouldn't have to give up his whole life to do hours and hours and hours of extra work to get an A or a B.

I wouldn't definitely take this up with the principal - and whoever implemented the ridiculous A, B and C plan.