Only half of my students have shown up since the first day. Some are apparently coming for just the afternoon. A few seem to pop in and out. I know it’s only the third day, but I found it confusing. It also makes teaching a bit interesting. So I asked someone about it today. What’s up with all the missing kids (about 13)? Will they be coming? Are they staying in the program?
The program they are in lasts three years. This summer is Year Two for them. So I figured that if anyone was going to drop out they would have done it by now, but that’s not necessarily the case. Additionally, I learned that there is no attendance requirement during the summer. During the school year, they have some Saturday sessions they do with the kids, and they are expected to attend a minimum number of those in order top stay in. But the summer? Apparently it’s come and go as you please time.
Now there are students who have been all three days, and someone was able to identify for me some students who come to everything and appear to engage fully in the program. Of course they are the ones who will get the most out of it. And I am not judging the ones who are choosing not to attend, but going into Day Four it’s going to start to get a bit confusing, and they are going to be a bit behind from the others who are coming most every day.
I wasn’t really sure what to do as a teacher. What do you do when half the students are consistently absent and other pop in and out? Do you just keep on with the schedule as is? I decided that yes, I will keep on. I post the schedule online so once a student shows up and gets the books he/she could keep up with the reading by checking the schedule. Of course I think the overall quality of the experience could be lessened by all this absenteeism, but what else is there to do? If you have thoughts, please share them. I need help here!
Day Three was a rather pleasant day for the most part. Since the students are writing essays, I have them reading essays. Today, we started our first one. I read aloud to each class for about 15 minutes and then told them to finish the rest of the essay at home. I was surprised to find out that high school students still love being read to! They were super excited at the idea and most of them followed along in their own book. I was worried they would find it childish to have me read to them, but they were all so into it. I am going to try to set aside 10-15 minutes each class period to read from whatever essay we have next on our reading list.
While I picked the first essay for us to read, I let each class decide which remaining three we should read over the next two weeks. I try to give them two days to read an essay. One class wanted four and was more than happy to have an extra reading rather than kick one out. They also seemed to appreciate being given a choice about what to read. When I told them they could make the selection as a group, I first got blank stares. I told them they didn’t have to select of course – I would be more than happy to select for them. That got them going!
Despite their willingness to read, they seem to have less willingness to write. They do seem to do the readings at home for the most part. However, I have picked up on the fact that most of them will probably not do any writing work at home. Some will, and those that will have made it clear to me that they will be writing both in and outside of class. But since I have gathered that most won’t, I make sure we have 20-30 minutes of time to work on the essay during class. The majority of them will write during this time, but there are still a couple in each class who will barely produce anything. I’m not sure what to do here. I have talked to them, and they are not rude about it, but they are clearly not into the writing aspect of the class period.
I think part of this, for me, is a lesson in expectations and assumptions. I am learning that just because they signed up for this program does not mean they are going to fully engage with it. I assumed they would because it was meeting a goal (going to college) that was important to them. But there still seems to be some disconnect. In the second three weeks I spend the entire day with them. During that time I am required to have a study hall. I hope to be able to do some focused work with some of them during that time that can maybe help a bit, but again, I am feeling a bit stuck.
Between the generally bad attendance rate and kids who show up but don’t want to do the work, I am feeling confused. I feel like all I can do is provide them with the opportunity and support, and they have to take it the rest of the way. Obviously I can only do so much. Thoughts?