Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How can one help another who will not help themselves?

How can I help others who will not help themselves? This question has troubled and stumped me for quite some time. I am studying to be a teacher, and I feel like all of my education teachers would say things like, "You must inspire them to want to learn...blah, blah, blah." Now that sounds great, but I now know that it is easier said than done. And that is a great understatement.

I teach a workshop that supplements a college algebra class. I work closely with the professor to give students the extra time and help they need to understand the material and succeed in the course. I have had many, Many, MANY students who say that they just don't get it. Yup, basically all of my students dislike math. If they liked it and were great at it, they would most likely not even be in my class. Anyway, along with the students who give up after the first few weeks and ultimately withdraw or fail, I have those students who start off determined to succeed. Last semester, a sweet, hard-working girl named Devon worked harder than anyone I've ever taught. She ended up passing the course, but barely. She definitely had a real math block going on. And then I have other students who have the ability succeed, but choose to be slackers and blame it on everybody but themselves.

This brings me to the young man that is on my mind...and not in a good way. This kid infuriates me! I have to be honest and say that he is lacking greatly in his fundamental math skills. The professor even suggested that he drop back to the previous math class because his skills were just not there. Of course he decided to stick it out. His reply sounded a little something like, "Oh no. I gotta pass this class and the next one. I'm a senior and I'm graduating in May." Hmmm...You are a senior, you struggle in math, and you waited until now to start your math classes...the 2 most failed math classes that our university offers!!!???? Well, let's just say that this guy will not be graduating in May. I know it, the professor knows it, and now I think he may suspect it. Ok, so you may be thinking I am a horrible teacher because I am setting him up for failure...think away...it's fine with me...it's people like this that make me seriously doubt my ability to put up with lazy-ass students. So, back to the beginning of the semester. I had faith. I thought, sure, he can put in the work and pass this class. Devon did it, so maybe he can too! And then he came to class...and then he came to my workshop...and then I realized that his withdrawal/failure is inevitable. Why? Comes late to everything or doesn't come at all, no book, no notes, no homework, leaves early, and challenges my policies. Now he has this attitude that even though he's just about failing, he's gonna do great on the test...uh huh...yup...sure. Now, of course, not only does he come to my class every time, he comes to both sections of my class. The problem is that he thinks he can substitute coming to my class for doing his homework and taking notes. Because of his lack of work, he has no idea what I am doing when I do problems on the board. He has no idea even how to start a basic algebra problem. He sits at his desk and wants me to explain each tiny step several times. He looks at me all squinty-eyed like he can't see, but really, it's just his way of letting me know that he still doesn't get it. My big question is, "What am I to do?" Do I attend to him individually all the time? I really can't do that...I'm not a tutor...I have a whole class to teach! I have no problem explaining concepts, steps, etc., but when it is a constant annoyance, I feel like it is taking away from the learning of everyone else. But I think the thing that really gets me is that I know he puts no effort in outside of class and then he complains to me that this class is harmful to his blood pressure...nice excuse. He has yet to visit the free tutoring center, visit the professor's office hours, or start a homework assignment. Sorry, but I have no sympathy. I just don't know how to deal with this guy...

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