Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Faking The Grade

I've survived one month into our new semester with 20 of the worst students I have ever had. And by worst I mean behavior AND intelligence. I've never seen anything quite like it in these last 4 years that I've been teaching English.

Even in kindergarten, we give out progress reports every month. After the first month, we hold parent-teacher conferences to discuss the progress reports and meet face-to-face with the parents. Never before have I ever had to give such low scores.

Sure, I know what you're thinking...isn't kindergarten all about shapes and colors and all that jazz? Yes, but I'm an ESL teacher. That means my job is to get these kids reading, writing and speaking English before they head off to first grade.

There are no A's or F's in our kindergarten. For our progress reports, we have a scale of one through five. 5 = excellent; 4 = very good; 3 = good; 2 = adequate; 1 = needs more effort. You'd think that if your kid gets a 1, that "needs more effort" is in no way offensive or should it cause you to cry. Personally, if my kid gets a 1 on any skill on her progress report, I'm going to sit down with her and work out the problem, helping her to improve on the area in question.

But my Korean teacher, who is also our kindergarten director, asked me to please change the progress reports of 2 boys in our class who I gave 1's to regarding behavior. She wanted me to put 2's instead. I should point out that one of these boys had 5's for his English skills. But Christina is worried these moms will have heartbreak over this. Seriously? You want me to give them a better score even though they do not at all deserve it because their mothers can't take a dose of reality? GOD.

If you recall, 2's mean "adequate" and the definition of "adequate" is: able to fulfill a need or requirement without being outstanding. Synonyms include "satisfactory" and "sufficient." I'm angry because that is exactly WHY I did not choose "adequate" for their scores in those areas. They are not adequate. They need improvement big time but I guess a mom who can't handle the truth is justification for upping a grade.

THIS is what is wrong with these kids these days. Parents that don't want to accept the responsibility for their children's bad behavior. You can't control everything your child does, but you CAN help them to learn from their mistakes and teach them the right way. This is just like giving out certificates to everyone who participates. It doesn't teach children to be accountable for themselves. It just teaches them that everything they do, good or bad, is just fine. They'll get a prize just for existing, and when they grow up, they will carry this damaging thought process along with them, never working hard for anything and depending on everyone else to do it for them. After all, why do any work when your mom or dad will always take care of you? Always do your laundry? Always cook your dinner and pay your bills? What a great thing to teach your kids.

The whole thing is reeks of double standards too. You want me to teach your kid to read, write and speak English well but you don't want to hear the truth about their progress. How can I possibly help someone like that? I need the help of the parents, to encourage and discipline their children in their home so that I can encourage and discipline them at school.

Christina told me I can tell them about their bad behavior during the parent-teacher conferences but I think it's ridiculous that we have a 1 on the progress report and when some children actually deserve to be given a 1 in certain areas, they don't want me to put it. It's not like 1 = your kid is an awful piece of crap that will never amount to anything. It says "needs more effort" which is not saying anything bad. It's saying your kid needs to step it up and try harder on this area. I don't see how telling a parent this is offensive, hurtful or heartbreaking but then again, I grew up in a time and place when we listened to our parents and teachers and we were able to handle rejection and disappointment. Success and accomplishments were never handed to us all like snacks at a party. We had to work for them and if we didn't make our goal, we just tried again. We tried harder and worked harder, and for what? So the kids of today can shit all over what we've built up. It's pathetic.

I won't let it get me down though. Because I am a parent too. And I can help by teaching my children the right way to work hard, to improve, to try and even to fail with dignity. I can teach them to fly and reach for their dreams instead of clipping their wings and confining them to a coop, filled with hopes they will never achieve unless someone hands it to them on a silver platter. How adequate indeed.

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